Don Brind assesses where the LAB fight now stands
“We organise. They conspire.” This political conjugation sums up the campaign tactics for the Corbyn Remain campaigners. Momentum are busy organising Momentum meetings around the country while condemning “coups and plots” by those who think he should leave.
Even before the YouGov poll there seems little doubt that the Keep Corbyn faction are making the running and have been boosted by the wrangling at the National Executive over whether the incumbent had the automatic right to be on the ballot paper.
I still believe Jeremy Corbyn is beatable.
The emergence of a single unity candidate will help but success for the change campaigner will depend on exposing the Big Lie at the heart of the Corbyn re-election campaign. This is the claim that he is the victim of a plot by people who never gave him a chance; ignoring his mandate from his runaway victory last September and opposing all his policies.
The proof that this a Big Lie comes in the list of talented Labour loyalists who answered his call to join what his closest comrade John McDonnell called the “big tent”. I observed here last September that he had done remarkably well in attracting MPs into the big tent.
What the anti-Corbyn campaign need prove to party members is that it is Team Corbyn who trashed the Big Tent.
The evidence that his campaign in based on a Big Lie comes in the list talented people who put loyalty to the party first and joined his front bench but who have now resigned. Anybody who cares about the future of the party and its ability to win power needs to listen to the testimony of Heidi Alexander, Lucy Powell, Seema Malhotra, Lisa Nandy, Jack Dromey, Kier Starmer, John Healey, Steve Reid and, of course, Angela Eagle and Owen Smith.
They all tried to make a go of the Corbyn project but ended up resigning after Corbyn sacked Hilary Benn in the middle of the night.
The change campaign needs two strands: the promotion of the values and leadership skills of whoever emerges as unity candidate and the exposure of Corbyn’s incompetence and failure as a leader by those who worked for him and gave up in despair.
We already have two good examples of former Shadow ministers who are now speaking out having spent months loyally defending their incompetent boss. Former shadow transport minister Lilian Greenwood cites a number of examples including the way Corbyn and his officials wrecked a long-planned campaign against fare increases with a messy reshuffle that ensured the campaign got no media coverage.
Then there is the extraordinary case of former shadow arts minister Thangam Debbonaire who “Corbyn appointed then tried to ditch her as a shadow minister without telling her – hours after she started radiotherapy for breast cancer.”
With remarkable restraint she calls his action “inept”.
Chi Onwurah Shadow Minister for Culture and the Digital Economy has produced a perfect campaign slogan “there is nothing socialist about in incompetence.
She says the party needs someone with both “leadership and management skills … the ability to execute policy across many, many departments and unite the country as well as the party.” Onwurah nominated Corbyn and says that when he was elected with “his huge mandate I welcomed the opportunity to change the economic narrative, to grow our party and champion real, radical change. As I looked forward to working, under Jeremy’s leadership, on subjects I was passionate and indeed knowledgeable about. But unfortunately that leadership did not emerge.”
Corbyn still has many supporters in her Newcastle party who just want to see the party united but, she says, “equally many members expressed a sense of betrayal. During a leadership rally in Newcastle last summer, in response to a specific question, Jeremy said, that if it became clear he could not win at a General Election, he would step aside. What they asked, had become of that promise?”
If Corbyn won’t keep his promise the members will have to keep it for him.