Mr Corbyn’s Casebook

Labour Party


It is hard to know where to begin with this. There has never been an end-point to the criticism of ‘poor leadership’ from Corbyn in the same way that the Iraqi or Syrian conflicts have never been completely finalised, or there has never been a stop to free movement of people to the UK from EU or otherwise. The day lurched from farce to tragedy pretty quickly, with Andy Marr introducing Hilary Benn as  “Hilary Benn was only sacked overnight,… and he joins me now.” You could have understood why Tom Watson might have preferred to stay at Glastonbury Tor given the circumstances. But the long awaited coup happened today. This is the coup which has been signposted ever since Corbyn became elected as leader with a stunning mandate. It happened of course merely to be a coincidence that this coup would temporally precede the reporting of the Chilcot Inquiry exposing motives for the Iraq War by about a week.

The victory was indeed uncontroversial, and yet some MPs such as Chuka Umunna, Tristram Hunt and Rachel Reeves had already decided to resign ahead of day one even depriving Corbyn of their cooperation. Tristram Hunt was later to have extensive footage of him shaking his head vigorously at John McDonnell on the TV package covering the coup.


To be clear, I myself found Jeremy Corbyn’s campaigning for the EU referendum pretty underwhelming, but it was not actually Jeremy who mandated this referendum. As I understand it, this referendum legally was supposed to be advisory, and not to produce a cognitive dissonant answer with the policy of the majority of MPs elected in 2015. Alan Johnson was supposed to be in charge of the campaign, and in fairness Corbyn managed to mobilise about 60% of Labour voters to vote remain in comparison with Cameron’s 40%. But Jeremy had his ‘7 out of 10’ moment, akin to the Gerald Ratner moment. Akin to saying his jewellery was crap, Corbyn picked his enthusiasm for staying in the EU as seven out of ten.

And as far as I see it Corbyn does see a good case for remaining in Europe. Migrants add to the gaiety of life and in  particular add to the social capital and economy of the UK. Free movement of people comes with the single market as a package,  and without migrants various sectors of life, for example the NHS and social care, arguably might implode. The argument that EU law had a beneficial effect was ambiguously argued, with rights attributed to Barbara Castle being argued as EU successes. And if Margaret Hodge was so successful in arguing the case for why immigrants should feel valued in Barking and Dagenham, how come her constituents largely appeared to resent immigrants and thus voted ‘out’? The counterpoint of ‘immigration is a good thing’ has been claims such as migrant families being propelled allegedly to the top of the housing ballots, bringing up children and sending their tax credits or unemployment benefit back home. Arguments such as migrants contributing a net amount to the economy gathered short shrift, and it is assumed that all people have to be contributing some sort of revenue to be a valued member of society?

Forgetting for a moment whether people felt ‘duped’ by lies, such as the figure on the bus of how much money we give per week to the EU or the amount we could be giving to the NHS, it’s clear the final result at 4.40 am came as a bit of a shock.


A shock maybe as the result was not expected, evidenced by the fact that there subsequently seemed to be no Brexit plan. The FTSE went into free fall by 500 points to a level akin to 1985, and the £ dropped against the Yen by about 13%. But the recapitalisation of Sterling was nonetheless held as a success, despite the huge volume of money pumped into the ‘free market’ thus exacerbating further our woeful national debt. But it was a shock not least because the difference between in and out was huge.

Corbyn per se is not responsible for the fact that 52% of the public prefer to leave the EU. This does not make 52% of the country racist. But it is the case the number of racist events has gone up since the referendum, and most of us know someone who feels ‘uncomfortable’ to live in the UK due to ethnicity. But is it right that the shadow cabinet blame Corbyn in such an unequivocal manner? After all, it was not Corbyn who made Lucy Powell produce such a massive fiasco communicating the #EdStone, or Heidi Alexander being utterly unable to articulate a policy on what to do about PFI or junior doctor whistleblowing. And I can’t even remember the name of the shadow transport SoS. No – it’s clear that this coup has brewing for months, and getting rid of Corbyn  will not in itself necessarily restore faith to Labour voters that they’ve ‘got their country back’. With the lack of EU funding, industry in Wales might implode, and certainly scientific and medical research will suffer.

But the mood music has been Farage whipping up xenophobia with a poster saying ‘Breaking point’. Or Boris Johnson or Theresa May becoming the favoured candidates for leader of the Conservative Party and Prime Minister. And fundamentally the MPs are stuck with the Fixed Terms Parliament Act, unless between them the MPs can mount a case for an accelerated renewed mandate. But it’s not clear what this mandate will even be for – whether MPs might use a snap general election to deliver a mandate for not exiting the EU. But with the Hilary Benn manoeuvre, is Labour ready for a snap election? The answer really depends on who will produce the bounce  and when – it might come from Boris or Theresa in October, or could come even from Jeremy again provided he makes it onto the ballot paper and his supporters don’t leave in droves. And yet the criticism has been ‘poor leadership’ all along, when the undermining of Corbyn has been virtually on a daily basis.

Whatever, we cannot go on like this. There’s the practical detail of whether Jeremy Corbyn can find a sufficient number of Labour MPs to form an effective opposition, or whether there is simply insufficient support for Corbyn within the party. The depressing scenario nonetheless remains that the parliamentary party is actually at war with the grassroots members, at a time when Labour voters and members really need a parliamentary party they can have faith in. The alternative of course is a lurch to the extreme right, which would be disastrous especially given the parlour state of the financial markets.

None of the coup participants could identify a clear successor to Corbyn. Given that he who yields the knife never gains the crown, the options for the successor are not that limited actually. But possibly Keir Starmer or Sadiq Khan could be encouraged to stand – but it is unlikely Sadiq would want to given his recent promotion to London Mayor. There is a feeling that this coup is ‘better late than never’, but failure to expel Corbyn now as leader will mean the inevitability of him leading the Labour change in the next general election. And Labour have been here before – when it was too late to get rid of the leader – Gordon Brown certainly, Ed Miliband possibly.

Tonight’s Question Time is a testament to how bad things are. We are a country divided with possibly even a further constitutional crisis to come with breakup of the UK.  One can have some sympathy for events engulfing David Cameron MP, but this is a pledge he wanted to keep, say unlike tuition fees hikes or the famous ‘no more top down reorganisation of the NHS’. Now might be the time for a united national government, but such a government might not necessarily safeguard against certain interests such as privatisation of the NHS. Whilst over ten or more MPs, and about the same number of juniors as ministers, can inflict further humiliation to Corbyn, Corbyn appeals to a ‘basic instinct’ of humanity nonetheless: that is a resistance against being bullied. Corbyn historically, even if from an aristocracy of socialists, knows when his back is up against the establishment, which makes him a formidable opponent. Finally, Corbyn appeals to those who rail against the putrid stench of the self-entitled class of the media around the Westminster bubble, especially in ‘establishment broadcasters’.

Sadly, we live in interesting times.