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Labour Party Putsch: The Traitors' Dilemma

01/07/2016 17:01 | Updated 01 July 2016

The die is cast, the ringleaders are known, their motives are nakedly obvious for all to see. The Parliamentary Labour Party coup, conceived months ago to be hatched when the timing was right, has not gone well so far. Firstly, several previous anticipated opportunities have failed to materialise. Jeremy Corbyn's Labour was fancied to lose the Oldham by-election, but it held the seat and the plotters, poised quivering and eager to pounce, had to slink frustrated back into the undergrowth.

Then, the Local Council elections. Again, there looked to be an opportunity, with the ever-obliging BBC prematurely reporting a night of disaster for Corbyn's troops, only to be embarrassed as things turned out annoyingly well, with Labour emerging as the largest party. The EU Referendum was Last Chance Saloon - the final opportunity before the publication of the Chilcot Report, with all of its possible nasty ramifications for the Blairites of the PLP.

So, the script was written before the results were known, in line with furtive early preparations elsewhere pre-dating overt action. But yet again, the figures have not stacked up as desired. In the face of a brutal and mendacious Leave campaign, Corbyn's Labour members voted almost two to one to remain - a highly respectable figure given the fertile territory the likes of UKIP and Farage have found among the disaffected and marginalised poor. Labour's remain vote was only a percentage point or two short of that of the SNP - and nobody's calling Nicola Sturgeon a referendum failure.

All of the pretexts upon which the anti-Corbyn movement hoped to base their rebellion have turned out to be duds. Despite their own professed agenda and the complaisant backing of the media, their motives are paper-thin and full of holes. But there's that pesky Chilcot thing in the offing, and it's imperative to get rid of Corbyn before he can use a damning report to start inflicting some long overdue justice. So, for the traitors, it's realistically now or never.

But there's another problem. The leadership challenge as such is probably not such a good idea. The incumbent leader would be on the ballot paper as of right, and looks set fair to trounce any and all opposition, possibly by a wider margin than even last September's historic landslide. If Corbyn could be persuaded to stand down, that'd be a different matter. He'd then need to secure enough PLP backing to be nominated for a leadership election - which would of course be relatively unlikely, as demonstrated by the constitutionally impotent no-confidence motion. So a Corbyn resignation is decidedly the way to go. But Jeremy steadfastly refuses to budge, citing the enormous mandate he was given only nine months ago.

Hence the current impasse. The unedifying spectacle now playing out is a bitterly ironic one of deeply dishonourable men and women calling upon a decent man - that rarity in politics - to "do the honourable thing", and resign. They seem eager to give him extra increments of time, hoping against hope he''ll see sense. The right-wing press throng the touchlines, oafishly cheering on these turncoats. But Corbyn knows that resignation would not be the honourable course. It would be highly convenient, for the would-be usurpers, but honourable? No way. So he carries serenely on, under immense strain, while his detractors seethe helplessly.

This is the classic Traitors' Dilemma - act recklessly, or perform a humiliating retreat?. What are they to do now, if this inconveniently honourable and determined man refuses to fall on his sword? Skulk away again, with Chilcot waiting to explode in their faces? Hardly. Launch a challenge anyway then, and damn the consequences? Well, to be the means by which Corbyn increases his already massive authority in the Labour Party as a whole - that's hardly the sort of history your average Blairite wants to be making.

Angela Eagle, who has shed tears of pure crocodile in the past few days, together with the rest of the opportunists thirsting for the kill, are faced with the Devil's Alternative. Whichever way they decide to act, they're likely to plummet into an abyss of obscurity and ridicule. It really is a very problematic situation. But it's one, let us not forget, entirely of their own making.

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