Will Labour “go to the mattresses” if Corbyn wins?

Will Labour “go to the mattresses” if Corbyn wins?

4 Leaders

Don Brind hopes that peace will break out

There’s nothing erotic about going “to the mattresses”, as fans of the Godfather know. It’s violence not sex that Sonny Corleone has in mind when he declares that unless the Corleone clan get what they want “it’s all-out war, we go to the mattresses.” (It’s not safe for the “soldiers” to stay at home while the bloodletting ensues so they camp out in warehouses on those mattresses)

Fears that the Labour party would take to the mattresses after a Jeremy Corbyn takeover looked all too real in mid August. Chuka Umuna had cast himself in the Sonny Corleone role, announcing that he and shadow cabinet colleague Tristram Hunt were forming what the Standard dubbed ‘the Resistance’ group.

The Corbynistas were, it seemed, equally prepared for battle. Corbyn, who has barely couple of dozen MP supporters, issued what the Independent called a “stark warning” that he would organise “revolts by his army of grass-roots supporters” to pressure MPs opposed to his radical agenda.  “I will absolutely use our supporters to push our agenda,” he said “We have to encourage the Parliamentary Labour Party to be part of that process and not to stand in the way of democratising the party and empowering the party members.”

This week there was plenty of fighting talk from unnamed sources quoted by Rachel Sylvester in the Times  fellow columnist John McTernan told Labour MPs to get ready “to ditch Corbyn next year” The sensible 90% of the PLP should “refuse to take a job and sit resolutely on the back benches.”

Then up pops Chuka Umunna to make it clear he is miscast as Sonny Corleone. “We must all work with Jeremy Corbyn” was how the Guardian headlined the report of his speech in Amsterdam. In fact, he wasn’t conceding Corbyn victory but his emollient tone was in marked contrast to that of Tony Blair and others with whom Umunna is usually bracketed.

He acquitted the hundreds of newcomers to the party of entryism. “At a time when so many are walking away from centre-left parties across the western world and many young people do not vote, let alone join a party, this is surely something to celebrate”

And he was critical of New Labour’s reliance on mobilisation from the centre, rather than organising. “It was strong on policy but weak on strengthening democratic politics, particularly Labour politics”.
Having urged Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall to engage with Jeremy Corbyn in a previous post I was delighted with Ummuna’s call. So what if it is based on a calculation that a Corbyn leadership will be shortlived? The key thing is avoid years of posturing and backbiting that will make life easy for the Tories.

We now need a response from Corbyn. He would do well to distance himself from some of the nastiness shown by his supporters, particularly the misogynist attacks on Liz Kendall, according to blogger Adam Bienkov.  He says: “Corbyn has been rightly praised for the surge in people energetically joining the Labour party to back him. But unless those supporters take a far more inclusive approach, they could end up turning away far more people than they welcome in.”

We may well be getting ahead of ourselves, of course, Having made my mark with Mike Smithson in 2007 by predicting that Harriet Harman could beat the favourite Alan Johnson in the deputy leadership election, I take seriously the warning from shadow chief secretary to the Treasury Shabana Mahmood that it’s wrong to take a Corbyn victory for granted.

In the New Statesman she says “I hear that tens of thousands of Labour party members, affiliates and registered supporters are yet to receive their ballot papers. And I am one of them. I can’t remember the last time I checked my post quite so religiously! But alas, my papers are yet to arrive.”

As a supporter of Yvette Copper, Mahmood will continue campaigning right up to close of polls next week. The eight other leadership and deputy leadership campaign teams will take the same view. For Labour members and supporters there will be no let up in the blizzard of emails, tweets and phone calls.

Don Brind

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