Jeremy Corbyn's Rebellions Were Right So He Can Demand Loyalty From MPs, Argues Ken Livingstone


Jeremy Corbyn's history of rebelling against past leaders does not undermine his demand for loyalty from Labour MPs because his rebellions were right but theirs are wrong, Ken Livingstone has said.

Last night backbenchers were told by Corbyn to stick to the leadership's message. The Labour leader's pleas for party discipline fall on deaf ears for some MPs - who point to Corbyn's past as a serial rebel who frequently defied the party Whip.

But Livingstone said Labour MPs were "out of kilter with the membership" and said "they've got to come to terms with Jeremy, not the other way around".

"Jeremy and myself, we rebelled a lot, as [shadow chancellor] John McDonnell did. Go back and look at our rebellions. It's turned out we were right," he told the BBC's Daily Politics today. "We didn't want to see the bankers set free, we didn't go along with Thatcher's agenda."

Livingstone said Corbyn was right to demand message discipline from his MPs because his message was right. "The simple fact is there's an awful lot of Labour MPs who can't come to terms with the fact that the British public at two elections, and the Labour Party membership last summer, have turned their back on the old Blair nonsense," he said.

"The message that Jeremy's got is one that is about rebuilding our economy by investing in infrastructure, increasing research, we've been going low wage, low skill, low tech, that's not the future."

The former London mayor and Corbyn ally who sits on the party's National Executive Committee said he was often stopped in the street by people who ask: "What did the last Labour government do for me? It did a lot for the bankers and the small elite at the top."

Livingstone said under the last Labour government voters saw "millions of jobs lost in manufacturing" while the party "didn't build homes for rent people could afford".

The election of Corbyn as leader, he said, was "a new start" for the party. Asked by presenter Jo Coburn while the party's poll ratings were so low if the Labour leader was taking it in the right direction, Livingstone said it was in part due to "six months of lies and distortions by the media".

He said Corbyn was "not going to change his policies because of the Tory media" and would "gradually win public support" ahead of May's local elections.

At the meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party last night MPs were unimpressed with presentations by both Corbyn and shadow communities secretary John Trickett, with one telling The Huffington Post UK: "Amateurish doesn't do it justice. If that was a branch meeting in my local party, it would have been embarrassing." Another added: "Just shambolic." Yet another said of Mr Corbyn's own 10-minute speech: "Painful, patronising and desperate".