Saturday Labour roundup: Corbyn, Syria, and potential mutiny

On Monday, I said that this would be Jeremy Corbyn’s worst week ever, and it has been, and next week will be worse again. That’s the pattern.

It was a week defined by Chairman Mao’s little red book, Livingstone blaming Blair for the 7/7 terror attacks, McDonnell’s endorsement of the IRA’s “ballot, the bullet and the bomb” approach to Irish unification, Syria, a looming by-election, and, no surprise, internecine strife.

As the week ended, it was clear, that as it currently functions, Labour is untenable. But who will leave the stage? There are rumours of a mutiny in the making, with stalwarts on the right of the party saying the time for a coup has come. But is this legal, not to mention democratic? Will the soft left endorse such a move?

How did it get to this point? Let’s take a look back at the week.


The Shadow Chancellor was gifted a Tory u-turn on tax credits as Osborne backed down from a series of cuts during his Spending Review. McDonnell, however, lost his moment to challenge Osborne when, as a joke, he bizarrely read from Chairman Mao’s little red book before throwing the book at the Chancellor.

The joke spectacularly misfired and Labour, instead of putting pressure on the Tories, spent the rest of the day distancing itself from the murderous Chinese dictator. A clip of Corbyn supporter, Dianne Abbot, appeared Wednesday night showing her saying that “on balance, Mao did more good than harm.”


The Prime Minister presented his case for airstrikes in Syria to the House, and as the Shadow Cabinet met to discuss Labour’s position, it was clear that a majority of Labour’s front benchers supported Cameron’s plan.

Pressure was now on Corbyn to make a decision about Labour’s position: would he allow a free vote, would he back the Shadow Cabinet for the sake of party unity, or would he seek to impose his own will and assert his leadership?

The Shadow Cabinet meeting ended with an agreement that MPs would go back to their constituency and consult their constituency parties over the weekend before coming to agreement on a way forward on Monday.

Corbyn, however, sought to outflank his front bench team by bouncing them into supporting a no vote, by sending out an email to Labour MPs directly after the meeting, in order to pitt the Shadow Cabinet against the Parliamentry Labour Party.  

Having just agreed to take the weekend to decide a collective plan forward, the email laid out that Corbyn had already made up his mind: “I do not believe that the prime minister today made a convincing case that extending UK bombing to Syria would meet that crucial test.”  

Momentum, the campaigning group formed out of Corbyn’s leadership bid over the summer, then sent out an email to its members, encouraging them to send MPs letters to vote no on airstrikes, in what appears to be a coordinated attempt by Corbyn and his team to pressure MPs by using his membership support base, and the threat of deselection.  

Thursday’s top moment though belongs to Ken Livingstone who went on Question Time and blamed Blair for the 7/7 atrocities, saying the terrorists “gave their lives” in protest of the Iraq war.


At midnight, the Times published an article in which it revealed that John McDonnell had once joked that “Labour councillors who refused to meet the IRA’s political wing should have their knee-caps shot off.” On Twitter, many users made the sarcastic point that Corbyn’s team now had a message that bombing Britain is ok, but not Syria.

In the morning, over on the Today show on Radio 4, Hilary Benn challenged Corbyn’s position on Syria, saying it was clear the UK needed to take effective action against Islamic State. He also said he wasnot going to resign because I am doing my job as shadow foreign secretary.”

Tom Watson, the deputy leader of the  Labour Party, came out to back up the position of Benn and declare his own support for airstrikes in Syria, pitting the deputy leader against the leader. He’s since given an interview where he invokes his own mandate.

Corbyn responded by sending out an email to the Labour membership soliciting their opinions on whether they agreed with his opposition to the airstrikes. But it’s been pointed out that you don’t have to be a Labour member to respond to the email, and you can respond more than once. Many Labour members, including MPs, said they hadn’t received Corbyn’s email at all.

Saturday (so far)

The Chair of Momentum, John Lansman, also edits Left Futures. That website today published a piece on its website saying it is now time that the Labour Left debate the controversial reselection of MPs, in a clear indication that the far left of the party is exploring mechanisms to purge social democrats and centrist progressives from the party.

John McTernan, a former Blair strategist, published a piece in the Telegraph arguing that “Labour MPs have only one option – a mutiny.” He presents a road map—not a particularly democratic one—to ousting Corbyn.

The Times has a front page spread which outlines the legality of a new leadership election that would exclude Corbyn from the ballot.

The Independent published an editorial in which they say, Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour isn’t working: The leader is weak, the party is divided, and its structures are inadequate.”

As the week ends for Labour, it looks like next week will be even worse.



  • 23×7

    Ah another Corbyn article. A bit of advice to the author. A really good blog article gives a different perspective on current affairs, moves the discussion forward and or in another direction rather than simply reheating what’s already out there.

    I look forward to your article on Cameron that covers tyre burning u turns, bullying in the party that led to a suicide and their own split on Iraq.

  • 23×7

    Now regarding labour. What we are seeing played out was inevitable. These are the last desperate throws of the Blairite section of the parliamentary Labour Party. They simply have not come to terms with the huge mandate Corbyn has received to reshape the party. They may try to get rid of him but unless Corbyn resigns they will lose. His support among the membership is growing if anything.

    The fact that the Blairites are breaking rank over such an important subject (Syria) is quite frankly pathetic.

  • mickfealty

    You offering?? You would be welcome to give it a go!!

  • It’s a chronicle blog, not an opinion blog—I’ve had plenty of those. Just go back through my catalogue. I’m interested in what’s going on in Labour having just moved to England from Belfast. And I want to give readers, especially those in Ireland/NI, a chance to reflect on what’s happening in British Labour. People seemed to get a lot out of the last one based on the number of views. I find it helpful to put Labour’s week in perspective, and catalogue key moments. When the time’s right, I might throw out a reflective essay or opinion piece. Not my interest right now.

  • Funny, I read the situation in Labour as the last throws of a vacuous anti-imperialist Leninism dying as long hidden arguments are exposed to public scrutiny. This is the death of the far left, not the birth of something new.

  • 23×7

    Try again. Based on your anti left wing rant in response to my other post on this article it’s quite clear what your agenda is.

  • chrisjones2

    Disagreeing with your pro left wing rant does not mean that people are not entitled to set out their views.

    And think of this blog like a TV – you don’t have to read never mind comment on e=every post

  • chrisjones2

    Well the inward collapse of the only viable opposition national party is a matter of import and worth exploring – if only so it can be fully savoured

  • Ernekid

    I joined UK Labour after Jeremy Corbyn’s election. It’s great to see an alternative to the neoliberal consensus that has dominated British politics since the late 1970s. I’m sick of politics for the millionaires instead of the millions. I welcomed that as a member my views were consulted over military action in Syria which is frankly a stupid idea. Syria is a hornets nest and David Cameron wants to whack it with a cricket bat.

    The right wing establishment media have had it out for Corbyn since Day 1 and so have the Parliamentary Labour Party who are mostly Tories without the courage of their convictions. See Liz Kendal. The facts of the matter is that Jeremy Corbyn has a stonking Democratic mandate to lead his party. If the more vermicious members of his party don’t like then they can bugger off.
    It says a lot that Barton holds any Creedance for John McTernan. The man is a serial failure. He led Gordon Brown to disaster in 2010, he then went to Australia where he helped destroy the career of Julia Gillard, then he went to Scotland where he advised Jim Murphy to the total wipeout of Scottish labour. Why would anyone listen to him?

  • “It’s great to see an alternative to the neoliberal consensus that has dominated British politics since the late 1970s.” Curious that Labour still has no press release offering it’s rebuttal of the autumn statement. The way the polls are going, there will be alternative, of any sort, for the majority of my adult life. That’s depressing.

    “The right wing establishment media have had it out for Corbyn since Day 1”. You think? It’s the job of the right wing media—from the Telegraph to the Daily Mail—to offer it’s point of view. But you know what? Jeremy Corbyn has played right into their hands. Absolutely appalling lack of control of the media.

  • I think the reason I’m going to keep these chronicle pieces going is simply to catalogue why Labour is failing so the hard-left can’t keep blaming external factors—right wing media, adversarial PLP, etc.

  • 23×7

    Absolutely appalling is dropping bombs in Syria, the bedroom tax, cutting benefits for people who really need them, bullying people so they commit suicide. Get a bit of perspective. The hyperbole from the right about Corbyn is embarrassing.

  • Turgon

    Many of the topics of debate have been presented in this fashion by the right wing media but have been seized on by the right of the Labour Party.

    Opposing British military intervention (killing people) in Syria is not confined to the far left. Indeed far from it. Many members of the Tory Party have been deeply sceptical, as have assorted ex diplomats etc. The concerns stem from a complete lack of long term strategy or even short term one. It seems to be let us bomb IS and hope something good comes from it.

    If the west are serious about military intervention an agreement with Russia and the Syrian government should precede any such attack.

    Mr. Creeth has previously stated his support for such killing of people in Syria but this is not a test of machismo as so many seem to be making it.

    The other issues have been a huge problem for Labour but one of the reasons the right of the Labour Party are jumping on this is to undermine Corbyn.

    Corbyn and his colleagues have made a series of mistakes but there is a strong suspicion that what is really disliked by the right of “New” Labour is that Corbyn is presenting a mildly left of centre economic analysis (rather similar to what was followed by both UK parties prior to 1979).

    The problem is that this analysis exposes “New” Labour as a right wing neo liberal party in economic terms. Hence, the dishonest claims that the economics proposed are far left – it is actually much closer to Roosevelt’s 1930s policies – far from hard left.

    Furthermore genuinely centrist economic policies might well be very popular with the electorate.

    Sadly Corbyn, McDonald and co have with their mistakes allowed people to focus on foreign and defence policies (where they can be portrayed – sometimes but only sometimes correctly as outwith the mainstream) rather than the economics where they are likely to be much more mainstream.

    The disrupting of the right wing economic consensus of New Labour and the Tories is much more dangerous to New Labour (and the Tories) which is why the other issues are being focused on. Sadly Corbyn and McDonald’s baggage allows this to be done far too easily and they keep adding mistakes to this.

    We should make no mistake, however, throwing out insults about “Leninism” etc. is utterly disingenuous.

  • Turgon

    Hard left?

    Renationalising British Rail and the Post Office. Using Kenysian economics to invest when borrowing is cheap.

    Such is only regarded as hard left amongst American neo liberals.

    Therein lies the reality. New Labour adopted a socially liberal set of values to hide their wholesale adoption of right wing economic policies – albeit with money they did not have thrown to the poor to keep them in a dependency (and New Labour hoped Labour voting) trap.

    I fear that a large number of younger “progressives” such as Mr. Creeth actually think they are of the left because of their social views and simply do not understand that their analysis is actually very very right wing in economic terms.

    Changing the terms of the left right debate into a largely social one has been one of the great achievements of the right especially in the USA. Sadly Mr. Creeth seems to take most of his intellectual cues from this tradition failing to see the older UK one. It was often but not always socially conservative but economically truly centre / centre left.

  • Croiteir

    correct Mr Turgon, the reality it is those who, in the parliamentary party who are out of step. Mr Corbyn reflects the majority, not plurality, of the party. If they do not like it and feel they cannot serve under the mandate they should have the courage to leave just as the Gang of Four did. I believe that they are not democrats but dictators who believe that their opinion is the only ones which count as they are morally superior. The sort of people who join the Alliance Party here.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    “Absolutely appalling lack of control of the media.”

    Or perhaps Jeremy is attempting to retrieve something of a genuine approach to politics from that “sound bite” “Values and Lifestyles” marketing led “middle ground” politics which manipulates the electorate through identified attitudinal “lures” instead of actually developing serious public interest policies.

    But I suppose the politics of psychological manipulation are now so deeply ingrained that the quite sinister notion of a party having “control of the media” through trade-offs with the Murdouch machine and other media power bases is a commonplace for some of us.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    An excellent analysis Turgon. All too many commentators assume the right wing neo-liberal consensus to be the natural state of affairs rather than something that has been crafted throughout all the main parties in support of a rather disparate collection of vested interests.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    Indeed, much of what Corbyn would propose (except for his defence policy) would have been unremarkable in the Macmillan era where the consensus was pubic interest politics.

    Also, I entirely agree that the modern “radicals”, what you’d describe as a “large number of younger ‘progressives’ ” believe themselves to be the current personifications of man’s striving toward the perfectibility of man, in an almost palpable parody of Marxism. One such Blairite told me at a London party in the 1990s “Our elders used to believe they needed to expropriate the rich, we have now learnt that we simply need to become the rich”…..

    Yes, American style…….

  • SeaanUiNeill

    But hardly an objective “chronicle blog”, not that such a thing is ever seriously possible.

    I remember that brilliant Derry born Historian Francis Stewart Leland Lyons saying once that after the discovery of the unconscious who amongst us would be so brazen as to claim Olympian objectivity……….

    The thing is to be entirely conscious of just where you are directing the reader, to be unconscious of the element of personal opinion in a piece is the saddest thing in the world.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    An excellent suggestion, Mick.

  • Gopher

    Corbyn’s problems are entirely Corbyn’s, trying to restrict a free vote on intervention (killing people) is Lenninism. Intervention in Syria is a matter of conscience or else bombs, Royal Airforce bombs would already be falling there. Those imperialist fascist Tory pig dogs and their voting conscience.(aided by the rightwing theocratic homophobic facists of the DUP)

    We as a nation are already killing people quite ineffectually in Iraq require a vote to kill people in a more operationally practical method in Syria. Personally I think our efforts are quite incompetent and are unlikely to improve, but the “leftwing” Kurds, various harmless sects and our friends in France (More lefties) need the help. That involves killing people. Overspill needs to prevented. You know the migration we are getting now, if another country goes under forget about getting a GP appointment. Thats the strategic “big picture”

    Realistically we need to be killing more people than we are planning for. Precision bombing just dont work because it is reliant on inteligence thats why it failed in the last war(s) and you can see its failure in Gaza weekly. It takes far too long! Ending Jihadi John was a propaganda coup but he was replacable and hardly the brains. New forms of attack can be formulated, if a Jihadi can imagine it, like flying planes into buildings or developing home made rockets they will do it.The tech curve might get steeper but they have time, resources and internet coupled with the secrecy to develop it. Nope you need to be killing people alot quicker than a commons vote will off. You need to shrink the time, space and resources of ISIS. Thats why votes on war are a matter of conscience in a democracy Comrade Jeremy, you balance saving people against letting them die.

    Incidently have the SDLP who were basking in the preternatural glory of the Spainish Civil War the other day be voting for or against bombing? I can guess. I just wish they like Corbyn would come up with a better arguement than Leftwing socialist workers paradise wars good, Rightwing Tory wars bad. That after all is were Corbyn and the SDLP’s conscience is. I much prefer people who weigh the merits of killing people from an idelogically neutral position and then vote.

  • 23×7

    Wrong. Breaking international law is not a matter of conscience. Going to war without any type of exit strategy should not be a matter of conscience. Attacking a terrorist group without attacking how they are funded should not be a matter of conscience. Going to war without knowing who the enemy is should not be a matter of conscience. Randomly dropping bombs on innocent people should not be a matter of conscience.

  • Gopher

    Whilst of course some people totally unrelated to ISIS barring they have the misfortune to live in their zone will die, it would rather be an accident rather than random targeting. No consolation to them I suppose. That is another thing that ones conscience needs to decide. Hopefully those with the responsibility of the vote have asked a few questions and read a few technical manuals rather relying on proposterous statements about the deployment of hugely expensive munitions in a random manner.

    Only last week the “Western” airforces attacking Syria “spared” the oil tanker drivers and destroyed the oil tankers. I not sure if Russian “Operational Art” or Turkish nationalism is quite so charitable. ISIS’s flag is certainly Black. Sure there will be cock ups and mistakes I would recomend Clausewitz’s chapter on “Friction” to any MP voting, David Humes chapters on “Francis and the Italian Wars” would also be helpful for any layman who does not understand what a yes vote means to make sure their conscience is fully informed. Think this snippet of Davids is always useful on “conscience” votes

    “The Italians, who entirely lost the use of arms, and who in the midst of continual wars had become every day more unwarlike, were astonished to meet an enemy that made the field of battle, not a pompous tournament , but a scene of blood and sought at the hazard of their own lives the deaths of their enemies”

    Cost is always a consideration in these matters you see its right up there with conscience and thats the brutal truth. The exit strategy, just like the exit strategy in every other war will be developed on the hoof and just like the end of every other war it will never be ideal! But I assume the first step to exiting is through Raqqa the last step could be through the Hellespont. One never can tell. But once again this comes down to the vote!

    As for international law if someone could point me in the direction of nation state collapse and the failure to live up to “Westphalian” principles (thank you Henry Kissinger) and the laws that cover them rather than symantics mine and others “conscience” would take International law pertaining to Syria and other nations seriously.

    Once again not to allow members of parliament consciences to decide freely to intervene in Syria ie Killing people and maybe some innocent people is Leninism

  • Greenflag 2

    “Randomly dropping bombs on innocent people should not be a matter of conscience.”

    Randomly ? Nothing random about the Drone killing of children a.k.a fun sized terrorists !

    MICHAEL HAAS: Yes, the term “fun-sized terrorists” was used to just sort of denote children that we’d see on screen.

    AMY GOODMAN: What was it?

    MICHAEL HAAS: “Fun-sized terrorists.”

    AMY GOODMAN: “Fun-sized terrorists”?

    MICHAEL HAAS: Yes. Other terms we’d use would be “cutting the grass before it grows too long,” just doing whatever you can to try to make it easier to kill whatever’s on screen.

  • Greenflag 2

    ” it would rather be an accident rather than random targeting”

    Not according to USAF members -see the link above re ‘fun sized terrorists ‘

  • Gopher

    I’m sure the USAF just like the RAF investigate breeches of discipline. Like I said these are all things to go into the scales of conscience. I have no delusions of what people are capable of, Like I said I’m not a fan of precision attacks as intelligence is too problematical to coordinate and prolongs suffering.

    “But whatever happens we have the maxim gun and they have not”

  • Greenflag 2

    ‘as intelligence is too problematical to coordinate and prolongs suffering.’

    And also increases public reaction to such attacks both in the countries of the ‘droned ‘ or ‘bombed ‘ and in the countries that do the droning and bombing .

    “we have the maxim gun and they have not””

    We even have nuclear weapons which are of no use in these situations well unless the mad Trump becomes POTUS .
    They also have the suicide bombers and thousands of victims from drone attacks and bombing -and they need no more reasons to hate the “west ” than they already have . Corbyn is right on this one just as Bush was wrong with his 2003 Iraqi invasion .

    The MIddle East is not Germany or Japan 1944 or even Korea1950 or even Vietnam 1974 .

  • Greenflag 2

    Not just American style its also Chinese style , Indian style , Singapore style , Russia style , and Mexican Drug Cartel style and -numerous others .

    Times have changed since Macmillan’s time and new solutions have to be found. Corbyn is just beginning that journey .There are others also on the same journey such as the USA’s Bernie Sanders of Vermont who while he’s unlikely to become President has shifted the economic argument within the Democratic party to a place where it was’nt in 2008 – i.e still trying to be the American Blairite brand while the neo cons were looting the country right left and centre and other countries as well !

  • Gopher

    I think it’s quite obvious circumstances are different than the conflicts you mention. Suicide bombers make a sustained western presence on the ground unsustainable. Limited objectives to let some other armiy/militia/regime boots get on the ground who actually live in the god forsaken country are feasible however. Conventional weapons can tailor their destruction with greater efficiency to get those boots on the ground than nukes just like the humble maxim gun against fanatics at Omdurman. Russia seem to have adopted that strategy with some success. The only problem is deciding which horse to back and having the courage to maintain your objective. . Corbyn is wrong in that he just calls “tails” every time and that’s why the shadow cabinet called him out.

  • Greenflag 2

    Very different -Yes -Germany and Japan were organised nation states predominantly mono ethnic with long national histories and a hierarchically structured industrial society . Neither Afghanistan nor Iraq nor Syria are anywhere close to that situation . Thus there is not only one enemy in each state but multiple enemys many with allegiances to groups in other states nearby . You call it God forsaken .I would think that Allah is fairly thick on the ground there and comes in different flavours for the locals just to break up the simplicity for invaders from the west .

    ‘just like the humble maxim gun against fanatics at Omdurman”

    Among the many wars a great grand uncle of mine fought in was the one when Kitchener was sent up the NIle to fight the whirling dervishes in a revenge mission for the loss of Gordon’s head fifteen years earlier . There was nothing humble about the maxim gun . The British dead numbered about 60 iirc whereas the dervishes are estimated to have lost 27,000. I guess revenge tastes better when its cold . My long dead relative was almost one of the 60 when Churchill sallied out with the cavalry to “experience ” real war and was surrounded by the ‘fanatics’ as you call them . Had Churchill been less enthusiastic in his desire for action British casualties would have been about 15 .

    With drone warfare there are no casualties except on the other side . Its not warfare .Its just slaughter by video game with the added bonus of the enemy including the fun sized terrorists not getting up to fight or live again .

    Corbyn is not calling tails . He knows as most Britons do that after 15 years in the Middle East the Allies have just made a bad situation worse and the rise of extremists and fanatics in that part of the world is directly related to western countries aggression in the region . As for the export of democracy ? Load of ould cobblers mate . They’d be better employed trying to revive it back in the USA and UK !

  • Thomas Barber

    On the other hand Greenflag same old same old, nothing changes we are at the same place we were 50 years ago except there are more people to murder and more people to fool.

    “Newly discovered documents show how in 1957 Harold Macmillan and President Dwight Eisenhower approved a CIA-MI6 plan to stage fake border incidents as an excuse for an invasion by Syria’s pro-western neighbours, and then to “eliminate” the most influential triumvirate in Damascus”

  • Gopher

    It seems Corbyn has lost his first attempt to subvert the parliamentary Labour Party and shadow cabinet. I’m sure it won’t be his last.

  • SeaanUiNeill

    I stand corrected. If my wife had seen the posting she’d have slapped my wrist. As an Anthropologist she’d have reminded me that its “Globalist” style, and the many local cultures of the United States should not be confused with this. With several American marraiges in my direct family I should also be less “relâche”in such things. Most are rather radical Democrats, so I’m kept abrest of US radicalism, both by them and my old friend the Rev Billy, a friend of over thirty years, whose “Church of Stop Shopping” does such sterling “Situationalist” work:

    Regarding Macmillan, the point I’m making is not taht Jeremy is going to slavishly copy the 1960s but that his general “Public Interest” policies would have been unremarkable then for ANY Britsih political party and that the storm of abuse released by what he supports is a mark of just how much the rather recent cult of greed and selfishness has not only become “respectable”, but is even the default of most people’s normality today. Which just goes to show how effective targeting social groups and seducing them into voting for you with arguements carefully tailored to fit their social profile really is.

  • Reader

    Gopher, the rhyming version is:
    “But whatever happens we have got
    The maxim gun, and they have not”