Solidarity ?? pic.twitter.com/lggiXOFRhX
— Rebecca Long-Bailey (@RLong_Bailey) February 16, 2019
Whispers tonight that the Labour splitters will move tomorrow. Chuka Umunna’s team are not denying he is about to quit (they did deny when asked last week).
— Alex Wickham (@alexwickham) February 17, 2019
Judging by activity on social media overnight there appears to be a reasonable chance that today could be the day that the Labour Party finally splinters. The Tweet above from Corbyn loyalist Rebecca Long-Bailey reflects one of the ways that the mainstream party is responding to the threat.
This was supposed to happen last Thursday with a widely briefed story that at 8 p.m. that evening a big development would take place. Some leading names were associated with those reports. It didn’t happen partly, because this was such a big night in the Commons anyway and my guess is that the prospective rebels wanted to maximise the impact of their actions.
The big questions, if this does happen, are how many are taking the plunge and who they are. It really needs some big hitters like those who have been seen as leadership prospects in the past to be amongst them.
Corbyn is no stranger to rebellions against his leadership and in 2016 80% of LAB MPs voted that the had no confidence in him. Because of the Labour party structure that was not enough to oust Mr Corbyn who went on to win a second leadership contest by a big majority.
One of the big deterrents to potential rebels is the memory within the movement about what happened during the last splinter within LAB in the early 1980s. This was, of course, the formation of the breakaway SDP. Its creation and the massive challenge of the first past the post voting system enabled the Tories to increase their majority by a huge amount at the ensuing 1983 general election.
But it appears Corbyn’s actions on anti-semitism and, of course, his equivocal approach to the main political issue of the day, Brexit, have just been too much for a number of MPs.
Interestingly there’s a by-election in prospect following the death of Newport MP Paul Flynn who retained his seat at GE2017 with 52.3% of the vote.