Campaign news

Challenge to Jeremy Corbyn’s Leadership

10th July 2016

Challenge to Jeremy Corbyn’s Leadership

By Mick Brooks

Angela Eagle has confirmed that she will stand as Labour’s leader against Corbyn.

Last September Jeremy was elected by a vote of 59.5% of the membership, with a record number of individuals voting for him personally as leader. Since that time we have seen non-stop grumbling and plotting by the bad losers in the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP). First they were going to oust him after a bad result at the Oldham by-election. It was a good result for Labour. Then they were going to plunge in the knife after bad local election results. Outside Scotland our vote held up well in May.

Now we are briefed by anonymous sources within the PLP that the victory of the ‘Out’ vote in the European Union (EU) Referendum shows that Jeremy can’t cut the mustard. This is pathetic and, as John McDonnell points out, (see John McDonnell on the leadership battle) entirely political.

In the first place the Referendum was not a General Election that tests party allegiances. The whole point of a referendum is that it gives a result on a single issue which cuts across party politics.

There were very sound reasons why socialists might vote for ‘Out’. The thuggish behaviour of the EU authorities towards the Syriza government in Greece fighting austerity was one such reason. The secret negotiations to impose TTIP (the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership), which allows big business to sue countries for damages when their elected governments take decisions affecting their profits, is another. The increasing neoliberal drift of EU institutions is a third reason.

In the end the main trade unions affiliated to the Labour Party decided that their members’ interests were on balance defended better by advocating an ‘In’ vote. Jeremy followed suit. He was well aware that he could not portray Britain’s membership of the EU as perfect. Put bluntly, you cannot win a referendum result by lying to people. They will find you out.

Yet this seems to have been the approach favoured by the majority of the PLP. They also reflected the attitude of their Tory counterparts among the elite in the Westminster bubble that the vote was ‘in the bag’, at least till panic gripped them in the last two weeks of campaigning.

What triggered this latest challenge to Corbyn’s leadership was, of course, fear of losing their Parliamentary seats in the wake of the vote for Brexit. They are moving against Jeremy yet THERE IS NO CLEAR CHARGE SHEET AGAINST HIM.

He is accused of being insufficiently enthusiastic about the pro-EU campaign. Here is a different view. “Jeremy is up and down the country, pursuing an itinerary that would make a 25 year old tired. He has not stopped.” Thus spake Angela Eagle less than three weeks ago.

Secondly MPs like Tristram Hunt have complained that nobody in their constituency knew what Labour’s position was.  The remedy was in their hands. They could have told the voters. Tristram Hunt seems instead to have hidden in an attic for the duration of the campaign, and then screamed blue murder against Jeremy when the result came in. He may have been more active than that, but if so he was remarkably ineffective. Stoke on Trent voted 69.4% for ‘Out’ and only 30.6% for ‘In’, one of the most Eurosceptic results in the country.

Similar votes can be seen in the constituencies of other uncritical Euro-enthusiasts among labour MPs. Most extraordinarily, John Mann and Frank Field have also recorded their lack of confidence in Corbyn’s leadership. Yet they both campaigned for Brexit!

Likewise John McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn were right to insist there be no common platform to campaign for ‘In’ with the Tories, unlike some other Labour politicians. In 2014 Alistair Darling campaigned jointly with the Tories against Scottish independence under the slogan ‘Better Together’.  This was seen by working class Scots as ‘Better Together with the Tories’. The result was a meltdown in Labour’s vote in Scotland, retaining only one Parliamentary seat in 2015. Labour had held 41 out of 59 Scottish MPs in the2010 election.

The broader picture is that, in the EU Referendum across the country, roughly two thirds of Labour (and SNP) voters opted for ‘In’ as against about 40% of Tories.

The PLP’s revolt began with organised resignations from the Shadow Cabinet. Clearly this was a conspiracy. Then 172 MPs voted ‘no confidence’ in Corbyn, with only 40 against. As Jeremy’s supporters have pointed out, this vote has no constitutional significance. We are reminded of Brecht’s poem, written in the wake of the rising in East Germany in 1953:

After the uprising of the 17th June
The Secretary of the Writers Union
Had leaflets distributed in the Stalinallee
Stating that the people
Had forfeited the confidence of the government
And could win it back only
By redoubled efforts. Would it not be easier
In that case for the government
To dissolve the people
And elect another?

Len McCluskey, head of the Unite union, called the whole thing “an unedifying coup” and the “political lynching of a decent man.” Apart from the sheer treachery, the political stupidity of launching a coup attempt, causing turmoil within Labour ranks while the Tories were stabbing each other in the back, is breathtaking.

The most outrageous suggestion coming from Corbyn’s critics is that, unless he can get nominations from 20% of the PLP, he should not even appear on the ballot paper. Since Jeremy is clearly ‘the people’s choice’, just don’t give the people the option of voting for him!

The constitutional position is unclear as to whether the democratically elected leader should be automatically on the ballot paper. The Collins Report (opposed by the LRC but overwhelmingly accepted at a Special Conference in 2014) muddies the waters. Legal advice is contradictory. In any case the democratic rights of members in a mass working party should not be decided by lawyers.

The moral position is crystal clear. Any attempt to manoeuvre Jeremy Corbyn off the ballot paper would be a squalid and despicable stroke. Since the right wing seems to be united behind Angela Eagle as their candidate, the result would not be an election, but a coronation with only one candidate on the ballot paper.

McCluskey warns that, if members are denied the right to vote for Jeremy, a split within the Party is a serious prospect. This could have devastating consequences for Labour’s electoral prospects. But what do the plotters care about that, compared with the furtherance of their precious careers?

The present situation within the Party is described by Jeremy’s critics as an ‘impasse’. This is a strange expression to use when one set of people has won a leadership contest and another has lost. We have every confidence that, in the event of another leadership contest, Jeremy Corbyn will win resoundingly once more. Moreover we will strive might and main to make it a reality,











Bookmark and Share

Find us on Facebook Follow LRCinfo on Twitter

Corbyn for 2020:


Subscribe to Labour Briefing

Labour Briefing