THE BLOG

The Timing of Labour's Sudden Bout of Puritan Zeal is Deeply Suspicious at Best

20/09/2016 10:10

As the Labour leadership campaign - this year's, not last year's - has unfolded, the desperation of those determined to unseat the democratically elected party leader has known no bounds. The fact that Jeremy Corbyn became leader just over a year ago with an unprecedented landslide of support among party members seems to cut no ice with those who cannot stomach what they describe as his "hard left" policies. For these people, it appears that ordinary party members are an inconvenient yet all-too-significant factor in the frustration of their aim to restore a Blairite sheen to the lately more rugged face of Her Majesty's opposition.

Those cynical enough to doubt the motives of Parliamentary Labour Party members who loudly object to their leader's raft of anti-austerity, anti-war, pro-public welfare policies, claim to have heard the unmistakable screech of a gravy train being derailed. The increasingly frantic protests of those who wish to see Corbyn deposed certainly bear the taint of self-interest under imminent threat. Why else would Labour Party parliamentary representatives be so at odds with the mood of the Party in the country? The PLP is stuffed with career politicians who came up with New Labour and have done very nicely, thank you. The wind of change fanning the flame of hope in so many people out here is merely a nasty draught to these Westminster champagne socialists.

Perhaps the least attractive and most worrying development - in a dystopian, Big Brother, thought police kind of way - has been the nit-picking trawl of social media for any suggestion of Labour Party members who might have been less than squeaky clean in their condemnation of those opposed to Corbyn and Momentum. All of a sudden, people who - for reasons of anger, frustration or simply the need to let off a bit of steam - have presumed to express themselves in terms less than diplomatic, are receiving letters from the party telling them that they are suspended forthwith, and will not be able to vote in the leadership election. The fact that these party members are almost exclusively outraged supporters of Jeremy Corbyn is being passed off as coincidental. Labour, it seems, is possessed by a sudden fervour to keep the party clean - and they will tell you this has nothing to do with chipping away at Corbyn's formidable ocean of support among rank and file membership.

This phenomenon, whereby thousands of paid-up, dedicated, committed Labour Party members are being abruptly disenfranchised (just as a leadership challenge reaches its climax) is profoundly suspicious, to say the least. Some members have been suspended for single tweets expressing approval of Green Party values. The Labour Party, it seems, has decided it is loftily above the need to attract adherents of other parties of the Left. Can you believe that?

Others are being purged simply for the so-called offence of expressing themselves too freely. Again, and worryingly, this is being applied in a lop-sided manner, with those railing against the anti-Corbyn movement being suspended out of all proportion to any who are opposing Corbyn in terms less than polite. The idea that this social media Puritanism has at its heart anything other than a desire somehow to shift Corbyn despite his overwhelming support is, frankly, laughable.

Other moves are afoot, too. Some wish to see a return to an electoral college approach to leadership elections. Others wish to have the Shadow Cabinet elected rather than nominated by the leader. All of this can be seen in the light of the Blairite desire to quash the "hard left". But it is the social media snooping, the rooting out of elements vociferous in their support of Labour's current leader - it is this that is the most worrying of all. Despite the Party's wide-eyed protestations, nobody's really buying their claims that these are just standards being maintained. What's happening is an insidious erosion of Corbyn's support base.

It won't work, and Corbyn will still win - and win big. It's difficult to see, really, what the motivation behind all of this Machiavellian posturing might be. At the very best, due to the transparency of their methods, they could achieve only a Pyrrhic victory for their candidate and disaster for a party that would then haemorrhage support. In effect, those who oppose Corbyn are damned if they win, just as much if not more so than when they lose. So what is the point?

It's difficult to avoid the unpalatable conclusion that the anti-Corbyn faction would rather see Labour hopelessly cast adrift and split asunder, than growing as a genuine, compassionate socialist, anti-austerity alternative to the various shades of neo-liberalism that have blighted the last 37 years. It's hard to believe that even such deeply suspicious tactics as those currently being deployed could have such a treacherous motive behind them. But the truth is frequently a pill too bitter to swallow.

What seems certain above all is the need to get this election over with, and to move on with a massively renewed mandate for our leader. And then - it will be time for top down reform and the redefinition of the party in the image of Corbyn and McDonnell. Having seen the desperate determination of the enemy within, and the lengths to which they will go - nothing less than a ruthless removal of such elements will now do.

Comments

CONVERSATIONS