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.

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty

  • hgreen
  • T.E.Lawrence

    Do not understand why NI Labour Activists are still supporting Corbyn ! Now is the time to strike a deal with Labour King Players that to secure their support and votes that Labour Party Candidates are allowed to stand in future elections in Northern Ireland !

  • Reader

    So the Fabians aren’t Corbynites.
    Who would have thunk it…

  • Gopher

    I’ll disagree with the OP in that if Corbym loses there will be no split, since the inception of the Labour party the far left has attached itself to the host in a parasitical relationship.

  • Declan Doyle

    The problem lies in the fact that the large bulk of the labour MPS simply never accepted Corbyn as leader. The grass roots completely messed up their cabal. If Corbyn wins again a large chunk of those rebels will row in behind him and shut up. They will have to decide if swallowing a stone is more uncomfortable than wrecking their party for the sake of waiting a couple of years. The elites across the spectrum especially in the media have done everything they can to undermine him from the outside simply because he refuses to kneel before the vested interests and establishment darlings. He challenges the culture of group think and that is unforgiveable in the modern neo liberal world of self interest and corrupted capitalism. He is doing a good job.

  • kensei

    It had nothing to do with the referendum. Reports of plots and timing are available from the first day Corbyn was elected. This is a convenient excuse. Dugdale should be pretty careful about commenting too, since she lost a sizeable section of her support of the electorate.

    Corbyn won in a landslide 9 months ago. By any measure, he deserves more time than that with a reasonably cooperative party. I hope he wins any leadership contest – the contempt for the members is shameful.

    I am also at a loss as to the strategic playbat this. Why rip yourslef apart when the Tories are there to be taken, and probably need to call an election? Why should the left of the party be cooperative if they lose? Why will the North that voted heavily remain rally round a more strongly pro European candidate?

    This turns on the unions, but even if they come out for the coup I’m not sure how labour avoids a split.

  • Granni Trixie

    Matters have reached a sorry state when instead of doing whatever it takes to be a credible alternative to Tories in disarray, Labour are allowing internal conflicts to zap up their energy – and demonstrate to the public that they may be better off under any party but incompetent Labour.

    On the other hand Labour blood letting could yet “work” – if whatever is done is done decisively and they can get their act together before next GE (which could be sometime soon).

  • Teddybear

    Parties, like companies, cannot be true democracies that allow every man and his dog to vote for its CEO.
    Franchise only truly works if those casting a vote have a stake and risk from the possible outcomes. A £3 quid ‘Labour associate member’ has nothing to lose from electing a leader who cannot win a GE

    But MPs have a lot to lose. They know what’s what just like members of a board of directors
    Know what’s going on better than those who on the factory floor.

    Fact is that MPs have a survival instinct. If they know Corbyn will lose a GE then they are probably right. People who truly are Labour supporters surely will prefer a leader who can win over one who can’t no matter what £3 ‘members’ say or think.

    Then again, the extreme left fetishizes purity over electoral success. This is what Corbyn wants: to be leader off his own molehill

  • whatif1984true

    If any constituency party disagrees with their MP they can withdraw support and put up someone else (at next election) who they do agree with (support/not support corbyn).

    Colleagues are colleagues – the party members are the ultimate decision makers. Shareholders own a company and may not agree with the management. The management are replaceable, the shareholders are not .

  • whatif1984true

    You have not considered that the wishes of the party members may make their MPs unelectable and that CAN be their choice. The choice is principle versus compromise. Think about the Lib DEMs allowing £9000 student fees when it was an election pledge to not allow them. This example is the reverse of the above.

  • hgreen

    As I’ve said before at the very least Corbyn deserved a crack at a general election with a party pulling together behind him. Lose and it’s time to give someone else a chance.

    Has the imminent publication of the Chilcot report made the Blairites nervous?

  • hgreen

    Of course the members have skin in the game. The vast majority don’t want another 5 years of tory rule. As for your final cliche about the desire for political purity. If that were the case Corbyn would have been in the leave camp. He quite clearly compromised for the good of the party during the referendum.

  • Eugene McConville


    Jeremy is a superb constituency MP and highly respected locally for his constituency work. I live in a neighbouring constituency and I’ve known of him for many many years. He has always been a principled activist and he has always been a rebel. I like him as a person.

    But tell me what you think is he “doing a good job” at? I just saw the fruits of his recent engagement with the British electorate. It was shambolic. I really wanted him to succeed as leader of my party. He may impress you but he will never be elected Prime Minister – he might push your buttons but he just doesn’t cut the mustard with the people who matter, the British voting public.

    As to plotters. Eighty percent -EIGHT ZERO PERCENT- of the people he leads have expressed no confidence in him. They represent millions of voters. My party needs all those millions and many more if we are to have a Labour Government.

    Jeremy has just had the opportunity to demonstrate his suitability to lead the country as Labour Leader in the Referendum. He failed and should go to save the party.

  • Msiegnaro

    I’m not a fan of Jeremy Corbyn, however he genuinely offers something different which seems to be more inline with Labour core voters than many of the recent “stuffy politicians” who morph into the same soulless politician. Corbyn should have stuck with his convictions more, he was always anti EU throughout his career and it was a mistake to change this stance since becoming leader.

  • Declan Doyle

    Whatever chance labour of have of winning an election under Corbyn they will never do it if the party splits down the middle. He has been leader for just 9 months with a very unruly team at his side. He deserves more time and he could well surprise everyone. He was right to keep a distance during the ref campaign. Openly sharing a platform with tge Eton boys is optically damaging for labour. He made his own argument for the EU in his own way. He has been a champion for the under dog all his life and brought that right to the heart of the house. He has emboldened tens of thousands of young people who otherwise would have no interest in politics whatsoever. He has also shown that he is willing to challenge Europe from the inside on areas where he sees failure. If he stays on as leader, he will win the next election.

  • Sharpie

    If anyone watches Game of Thrones – Jeremy Corbyn has gone a bit HIgh Sparrow on the UK. He is doing that humble but aggressive thing with very ideological followers. I can see him making Tony Blair do a post Chilcot walk of atonement from Palace of Westminster to the Tower.

    There is a huge problem in Labour that requires an absolute dinger of a fight to clear the air. It should have happened way before this but a lid has been kept on it. Media commentators have it down as Blair v’s far left. I’d say there is a lot more to it. There are many millions of people who disown Blair’s foreign policy while recognising some of his social democratic reforms. He demonstrated what makes you win elections – it is appealing to the centre and transforming the system from the inside. This is what the Democrats do every time they get elected in the US.

    The far left have an important role but are not and cannot ever be mainstream. The electoral system in the UK of FPTP prevents there being a real voice for the important minority voices to be aired – Greens, Far Left and other minority groups. The only way of getting a few seats is coming from another of the UK devolved regions.

    They need a huge conversation about what it is that they want and how they are going to do it. They messed up the referendum big time for not being clear or strident. If Corbyn wasn’t sure he should have put someone else forward as the mouthpiece.

    There’s a lot of chatter about how MP’s are elected to represent us and not lead us and I find it interesting that this argument is only made when we don’t agree with what they are doing. Jo Cox demonstrated what it means to be an MP and with a little bit of humility and less anger it might be worth listening to each other to find out if or how all the aspirations in the party can be accommodated in service of the betterment of the UK (and Europe?).

  • Anglo-Irish

    Appointing Corbyn to the leadership in the first place has to have been one of the most stupid and ill thought out decisions made by any political party in history, although Trump could trump it.

    A 65 year old nonentity who no one outside the party had ever heard of and whose only claim to fame was that he had voted against his own party on over 500 occasions.

    It is a very rare person who can lead without first learning to follow and the essential value of teamwork.

    Corbyn is not a rare person in any respect other than he is a maverick who has a record of virtually always placing his own beliefs and interests over those of the party he purports to support.

    He can only have been elected by a caucus of navel gazing insular Islington weirdos with absolutely no connection with anything happening outside London.

    Articles described him perfectly on the ‘ Ditching Corbyn now ‘ thread as ” a leftover from a bygone age “.

    He’s unelectable and his stance now which appears to be to ignore the wishes of those who work with him and carry on regardless for his own selfish reasons proves his unsuitability.

    I am not a supporter of any particular political party and will vote for the one I consider to be the best – or least worst – for the country, I will not vote for Corbyn.

  • Reader

    Is the “Downfall” subtitled version out yet?

  • Teddybear

    Many of the £3 brigade do not attend meetings or ware out shoe leather on campaigns. Secondly, the MPs were elected by ordinary constituents and not the party members.

    If you still think Corbyn can win a GE, fine. I wish his fans all the luck in the world in their Quixotic tilting at electoral windmills.

    Just because you believe in something doesn’t mean it will happen. I realized that when I matured. It’s not pleasant but most dreams remain just that, dreams.

  • Eugene McConville

    Declan Doyle- “he could well surprise everyone” – “If he stays on as leader, he will win the next election.”

    Peter Medawar- ‘…the intensity of the conviction that a hypothesis is true has no bearing on whether it is true or not.’

  • whatif1984true

    I do not disagree with you but The MP is first chosen by the constituency party and then the candidate stands in the Election. We all know that there are constituencies where the Labour candidate always gets elected in others there is more instability.
    I do not think Corbyn would win a general election but I have voted for NI candidates who I thought had no chance of election, eventually they did win.

  • terence patrick hewett

    Part of a fundamental political and constitutional re-alignment of the 4 nations. I expect neither Labour or the Tories to survive in their present forms. Federation must be on the cards now. What to call it will be the most difficult job. Perhaps:

    * Federation of United Kingdoms, Republics and Superterrestrials.

    * Yeats’ Orange Union

    * United Nations of Wales, Ireland, Scotland and England.

    * Consolidated Union of National Territories and States

    * Lands of Order and Liberty.

  • doopa

    Union of Craic surely:

  • chrisjones2

    He was helped to election by many of s £3’ers who wanted to see Labour in chaos…and it has worked

  • chrisjones2

    “something different”

    In the way that say Chubby Brown offer something different to other comedians?

  • chrisjones2

    Corbyn is an idealist, left wing socialist who hates markets and profits and treats everything is an ideological issue. He is ideal as a leader of Labour for those of us who want to see that party perpetually out of power

  • mac tire

    Not on the OP. However, there is this one:

  • Declan Doyle

    Oh I know. But I honestly think that given labour’s fortunes were rising in the polls along with corbyn approval ratings before brexit, he could well lead the party into a coalition position.

  • Declan Doyle

    Perpetually out of power similar to the’smash Sinn Fein’ prediction?

  • terence patrick hewett


  • hgreen

    A left of centre pact between the SNP, Labour and others to negotiate the terms of Britexit in favour of ordinary working people rather than the banks and corporations would be a powerful message to bring into the next election.
    What we’ll probably get however is another triangulating blairite who won’t be able to answer the question “will you form a govt with the SNP?”.

  • hgreen

    Who’s Chubby Brown? Do I have to be an old person to understand this reference?

  • Anglo-Irish

    For once we find ourselves in agreement chris. : )

    I don’t subscribe to any political party and am prepared to vote for the one I think will do the most good, or the least harm.

    Governments, of whatever stripe, work best when they have a workable majority but are facing a strong and unified opposition, keeps the gits on their toes.

    Whenever they have an overwhelming majority and an opposition in disarray whoever is in power starts to get above themselves as public servants and begin to try to implement their ‘ cunning plan ‘, this usually entails crapping on the rich, or crapping on the poor, dependent on allegiance.

    Being controlled by either Big Business interest or Union interest isn’t a recipe for a reasonable, fair and well balanced economy.

  • hgreen

    You need to drop the knocks on doors cliché.That was in the old days. Corbyn seems to have energised a younger demographic. That’s surely a great thing.

  • hgreen

    Completely wrong. Do the maths. He won by a landslide.

  • Reader

    Oh I do like a nice Downfall meltdown. But it does look like Boris will stand for leadership of the Conservative party – he must have got back his composure.

  • Angry Mob

    Angela Eagle vs Jeremy Corbyn, no matter who wins the party is screwed.

  • Teddybear

    How do you define energize? Clicking lots of Facebook likes ?

  • Zig70

    So the elites of the Labour party want to remove the man on the left who was most in tune with the majority vote in the referendum? Because the media say he can’t win? Let them eat cake.

  • Reader

    Chubby Brown is a comedian popular with the lower classes, yer lordship.

  • Sir Rantsalot

    Blair and Cameron are pupets of the globalist elites. They have both attended bilderberg in the past. I expect Corbyn is his own man, hence the previous msm campaign against him when he got elected. Now a PR company with Blair trying to create a leadership challenge… Not surprising. People should check into anyone favoured by Blair as leader. Certain to be another globalist puppet.

  • hgreen

    Aw shucks I dunno. Have a look at the Obama and Sanders campaigns.

  • Sir Rantsalot

    LOL . Would not want to see TB in the nip !!

  • Reader

    No! Boris knifed by Gove.

  • Granni Trixie

    It sounds like you feel he has an entitlement. Tell that to the general public who see him not able to run a bun worry (to use a lcal expression). Surely he has to take responsibility for Labour internal conflicts taking centre stage in a context which should normally favour the opposition.

    It’s indulgence to keep him on.

  • ZeroZero11

    Corbyn is the voice of the people and the labour party members the chickens are teh voice of who?