UK Labour in turmoil: “if I had lost the confidence of 80% of colleagues I would resign…”

Labour MPs vote no confidence in Corbyn 172 to 40. The decision is non-binding, in the sense that according to the rules there are no consequences.  At least that’s the way Mr Corbyn is playing it. And in direct consequence of that, the UK Labour Party is having a major meltdown.

In fact, the no-confidence motion was much less shocking than the fact that 27 members of his own Shadow Cabinet have resigned. There’s an oddly fallacious impression abroad that this constitutes some kind of Blairite Putsch.

But one of the few recognisable former Blairites that were in the shadow cabinet, the Shadow Home Secretary Andy Burnham, is still in there (though he may be leaving shortly with three of the new appointees). The rest are a hodge-podge of moderates and leftists.

Back in November Professor Colin Talbot described the broader split in the party over Corbyn….

[It] is not mainly between socialists and social democrats, it is between social democrat ‘consilliators’ and ‘refuseniks’.

The former want above all to hold Labour together. They know Corbyn is a disaster and their strategy is to remain ‘loyal’, try and limit the damage and wait for him to fail so spectacularly he can be removed and replaced without an open civil war.

The ‘refuseniks’ clearly see Corbyn as a absolute disaster for Labour. Like the ‘consiliators’ they are engaging in ‘wait and see’, for the moment, but want to say very clearly ‘not in my name’.

They are discussing, in an as yet not very advanced way, how to launch a counter-revolution.

Well, now they have launched it. There’s a petition, with its own website too. Spontaneous, it is not. But as Paul Anderson notes in the New York Times this evening, it was likely Corbyn’s internal handling of the EU Referendum campaign that broke the camel’s back…

The two Labour leaders and their advisers first decided that the party should not join a bipartisan pro-European campaign with Mr. Cameron. In the run-up to the referendum, Mr. Corbyn was all but invisible except for a TV program appearance on which he said he rated the European Union at “seven, or seven and a half” out of 10.

Labour’s Remain campaign made no positive case for the free movement of workers in the union, but when the final days of the campaign turned into an ugly battle over immigration, Mr. Corbyn vetoed any notion of constraining it.

Was there deliberate sabotage of Labour’s Remain campaign? Perhaps, but it seems more likely that the Corbyn strategy, if you can call it that, was the product of incompetence and shortsightedness — a belief that the Europe referendum wasn’t very important and that Labour could benefit from Tory disarray.

The failure to recognize the strength of feeling among older working-class voters that immigration was a problem proved disastrous, both for the wider Remain campaign and for the party’s standing. Mr. Corbyn himself came across as a shambolic and petulant grouch.

We already are well past ‘normal’. In the Commons, Mr Corbyn commands the loyalty of 40 MPs. That’s just 19% of his parliamentary party. There’s even talk of members of the Shadow Cabinet doubling and even tripling up on jobs.

Meanwhile, the SNP leader Angus Robertson is nipping at his heels looking for someone to take on the still vacant role of Scottish Secretary. It fell to the leader of the Scottish Labour Party, Kezia Dugdale, to point out the obvious…

If I was in his position, if I had lost the confidence of 80% of colleagues I would resign because I could simply not do my job.

Corbyn still has the Unions holding his back. And he still has the role of party leader which he won handsomely less than a year ago after a number of MPs lent him their votes to get him on the ticket.

Polls say that those member who voted for him still support him, but it’s likely the present coup was stage-managed with days and days of resignations to drive home an external message that there is no functioning relationship between him and the parliamentary party.

Martin Kettle in the Guardian thinks a split is on the cards, sooner or later…

If Corbyn stands and wins, a split may soon follow. But if Corbyn is forced out and replaced by an opponent, depending on who that opponent actually is, a split may follow too. Although the splits would divide many of the same people, the outcomes could be distinctly different, depending on who wins.

You have to wonder, now that Corbyn is this far down, why is he still holding on? Perhaps the split has now become the point: in polarising the party to the maximum extent he hopes (like Benedict) to become head of a smaller, purer church of avid believers?

Certainly yesterday morning Diane Abbot made it clear it was for the rebel 80% of the party to put up a candidate or shut up. No one has yet done so. They are waiting to see if Jeremy relents. Speculation has rested on Angela Eagle (whose constituency party backs Corbyn) as a candidate.

Paul Anderson is not sanguine. He thinks Labour may be in for “a summer of fratricidal bloodletting followed by electoral oblivion”. If Corbyn continues to stick to his guns, he could be right.

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