The establishment campaign to remove Jeremy Corbyn as Labour Party leader suffered another massive blow yesterday evening when the Labour Party National Executive Committee (NEC) voted 18-14 that Corbyn, as the incumbent leader of the party, does not need to gather signatures from Labour MPs to be on the ballot for the forthcoming leadership election. This is significant because Corbyn would have struggled to muster enough signatures from among the PLP, dominated as it is by Blairites and venal careerists, to be on the ballot that way. He has massive support among the Labour Party membership but not among the Parliamenary Labour Party or its allies in the party ‘elite’, most of whom are ideologically opposed to everything he stands for. The failure of this latest stage of the ‘Chicken Coup’ was something to be celebrated by everyone who hopes for a kind of politics not dominated and controlled by the rich and powerful.
Yet barely had news about the NEC’s decision got out before the latest Blairite tactic was revealed. After Corbyn and some of his supporters left the NEC meeting, the committee voted to stop anyone who joined Labour in the last six months from voting in the leadership election. This includes the 100,000+ members who signed up in the few weeks since the Brexit vote, most of whom are Corbyn supporters. Supposedly, members will be able to pay a £25 fee to register as a ‘registered supporter’, and be able to vote that way–a tactic which manifestly discriminates against the less well-off, most of whom are likely to be Corbyn supporters; while £25 is small change to the sort of ‘filthy rich’ Blairite who might specifically sign up to try and vote against Corbyn. More generally, the idea of putting a price tag on a vote like this is profoundly undemocratic, and flies in the face of everything the Labour Party is supposed to stand for.
There have also been unconfirmed reports that the NEC voted to suspend all local party meetings in the run-up to the leadership election, which will take place between August and September. If true, this would represent a profoundly undemocratic manoeuvre designed to silence and marginalize the grassroots membership which forms the base of Corbyn’s support, and which is also the lifeblood of the Labour Party. The pretext for this seems to be a supposed campaign of intimidation against Blairite MPs and party functionaries; a campaign which does not seem to have existed apart from in the heads of said figures and their cheerleaders in the media. A brick was thrown through the window of leadership ‘candidate’ Angela Eagle’s office in Merseyside, but it’s still unclear who did it or even what their motive was. Corbyn and his supporters, including Momentum, have been quick to condemn any and all behaviour that even hints at being aggressive or unfriendly, but that’s not enough for the Blairites or the media.
Eagle said it wasn’t enough Corbyn condemnded any intimidation or abuse, refraining from saying what else he is actually supposed to do; while NEC member Johanna Baxter made the risible claim that by voting that the leadership vote should not be a secret ballot, Corbyn was ‘endorsing bullying’. Again, these people who are so quick to denounce Corbyn’s supporters of bullying seem to find it very hard to actually provide any evidence of bullying or intimidation, instead conflating bullying with the idea of democratic accountability. Yet Corbyn is subjected to the lowest form of schoolyard bullying in the House of Commons, including listening to his own MPs telling him to ‘sit down and shut up, you’re a disgrace, while he’s trying to hold to account the Conservative Prime MInister during PMQs. The Blairites and their supporters in the media are suppsoed to be able to smear Corbyn and his supporters, but the mildest criticism of them is denounced as if it’s the worst kind of abuse imaginable.
You know, if you manifestly try to sabotage the democratic structures of the party you’re paid to represent, and metaphorically spit on your own members, then you might eventually find yourself voted out of your cushy position and be forced to actually go and earn a living like the rest of us. The mentality of these Labour Party careerists has become abundantly clear: voters and the membership are just there as electoral fodder who are supposed to vote and keep their mouths shut, allowing the political class to do whatever they want with no possibility of consequences. Well, that’s not how democracy works. The rampantly undemocratic bureaucratic chicanery indulged in by the PLP and Labour Party establishment over the past few weeks has shown exactly how much store they put in the principle of ‘democracy’. It’s a fig leaf to be used only to suit their own interests and as a pretext for bombing other countries.
This attack on new members’ right to vote was actually anticipated by the decision to deny anyone who joined after 24 June a vote in the upcoming elections to the NEC. That was the day before Hilary Benn called Corbyn to tell him he was gathering signatures for a vote of no confidence; the event which forced Corbyn to fire him. This was in turn the event which precipitated the massive surge in people joining Labour. Coincidence? Probably. But considering some of the individuals and organizations involved in these machinations, nothing would take me by surprise.
The details of how new members are supposed to be able to vote in the election are still scarce. However, one of the few ways new members can supposedly guarantee a vote is by joining as an affiliated supporter via a Labour-affiliated trade union. It would be the mother of all ironies if this latest Blairite tactic led to an explosion in union membership–just as it was the change to voting rules, designed to harm the unions, which paved the way for Corbyn’s electoral success last year. For all their malevolent bloody-mindedness, there is plenty of evidence to back up John McDonnell’s assertion the coup plotters are ‘fucking useless’. But at the same time, they are absolutely determined, and will not give up until Corbyn is gone. Corbyn has spent the past nine months trying to conciliate the Blairites within the Labour Party, and all it has done is emboldened them and given them time to plot a series of coup attempts.
Corbyn and his supporters barely have any time to articulate their vision of a better Britain, considering they spend all day every day firefighting attempts by Labour’s right and the media to smear them and undermine the party. But nevertheless, Corbyn has inspired Labour Party to grow to around half a million; an amazing development, as he has said, that needs to be mobilised to work for a better country and a better world. The problem is, there are major parts of the Labour establishment who do not want these members joining the party, and who would be much happier if they left, and the party carried on as the same Tory-lite charade it has been since the 1980s. Then there would be no opposition to their self-serving political perspective, and no threats of deselection to keep them awake at night. But sooner or later, something will have to give. The unions who finance the Labour Party will play a pivotal role. Until now they have by and large supported Corbyn, but history is full of examples of trade union leaders betraying their members when the pressure is really on. Unless Corbyn is going to join the ranks of honest but tragic labour leaders, he is going to have to act decisively to ensure all his support does not just fizzle away.