If I was trying to define the word “bonkers” and explain to you what it meant, I would simply say Diane Abbott. You know, Diane. TV personality, hard left socialist, sent her son to private school – WHOOPS: sorry, didn’t mean to remind you of that bit – and now shadow cabinet member. She has always been what one might describe as “a loose cannon” but in an amazing rant tonight at a Labour Party fringe meeting – I think that might mean lunatic fringe – Ms Abbott seriously thinks there are Labour MPs who would vote in favour of military action against ISIS in Syria just to damage Jeremy Corbyn.
“I hear,” says Ms Abbott, “that there are Labour MPs, supporters of losing candidates, who think that by voting to support the bombing in Syria, they can strike a blow against our new leader.” Well, is that so? In that case, why don’t you name names? After all, we are constantly told that Mr Corbyn represents “Straight talking, honest politics”, aren’t we? There’s nothing straight or honest about this, is there?
And “supporters of losing candidates?” This sounds very much like the sort of thing those of us who are not on the hard left have to put up with from the friends of Corbyn (never the man himself, of course: he doesn’t believe in the old politics). We’ve been “Blair-lite”, “right wing”, “neo-liberal”, “Tory-lite” and all manner other daft labels because we come from a different part of this so-called broad church. You suspect that Ms Abbott would be much happier if the church wasn’t quite so broad after all.
On the face of it, I too would oppose the bombing of ISIS targets in Syria. I do not have a closed mind on the subject but I would like to see the facts and consider the evidence and aims. My mind is pretty well made up but then I am not a privy counsellor who would have far more information that Joe (and Josephine) Public. But Ms Abbott refers to a vote that has not even been put before parliament yet and uses it to suggest that some Labour MPs would “vote to put British troops in harm’s way because of internal Labour politics.”
She gets worse though. Referring to the issue of a replacement for Trident, whatever supporters of “leadership candidates who failed” said, she would be voting against the renewal of Britain’s Trident nuclear weapons system. Now pardon me, Di, but one of the reasons I voted Labour in May was because I believe in a nuclear deterrent in these changed and dangerous times. You can talk about Corbyn’s mandate but you also have to remember that 9,347,304 people voted Labour in May for a manifesto that included a commitment to retain a deterrent. And whilst I am on the subject, you need all those people, and maybe two million more, to vote Labour in 2020. If you keep dissing and casting aspirations on those who are already Labour members and supporters, how do you suppose you will attract the swing voters the party needs? Or don’t you care? After all, you have a safe seat and a guaranteed salary. Those private school fees have to be paid from somewhere.
The hard left need to get it into their heads that their man actually won the Labour leadership. Those of us on the left and centre left know we lost. We also know what the hard left is like when it gains power. It is no less ruthless, and arguably more so, than any other group. Indeed, one of shadow chancellor John McDonnell’s main political allies, the PCS general secretary Mark Serwotka, has succeeded in purging virtually all opposition within his union and all but destroyed and bankrupted it at the same time. I hope PCS is not held up as an example of how to succeed.
There is no secret coup to oust Corbyn and I doubt very much that there will be. He is remains in his honeymoon period as leader, enjoying poll ratings that are even worse than Michael Foot’s when he was elected Labour leader a million years ago. The right wing media has launched a fully-frontal attack on Labour’s new leader, as it usually does with any Labour leader, but it doesn’t yet know how to deal with him. And the Tories know even less. But the Tories will be relaxed, five years out from the next general election, and they will be working and planning day and night to come up with some kind of strategy, assuming they will ever need one.
Most of us who supported “candidates who failed” have no desire to see Corbyn fail, believe it or not. There are millions of people who actually need a Labour government, as opposed to the chattering classes who would be merely like to see one, although it doesn’t really matter to them who wins the election. I don’t believe, for one moment, that a single Labour MP would vote to bomb ISIS in Syria just to embarrass Corbyn, but it tells you a lot about Corbyn that one of his prominent friends suggests they would.
If Corbyn’s followers genuinely want a united Labour Party going forward, it would be a good idea to look like they mean it. I still think many of them want a “pure” Labour Party and what Abbott said today a lot more of them will be saying it tomorrow.