Labour's lethal legitimisation of coups

16 Aug 2016

The Labour Party is in a crisis. Two famous factions: the 'hard left' and 'moderates' have finally entered what can only be described as a civil war for control of the party. It is a battle that has divided Labour from ordinary members through to the Parliamentary Labour Party.


However, a large proportion of the membership, including myself, do not associate themselves with either faction. This then leads to the immediate question: who should this key group support?


If based purely on an individual level, then Owen Smith is the obvious answer. Smith would likely be able to unite the majority of the PLP and, while both candidates have poor opinion polls, Smith’s poll ratings are considerably better than Corbyn’s.

Smith is also charismatic, and much better at dealing with mainstream media, which is key during periods of national campaigning. On the other hand, (and I believe this to be the case) members in this leadership election, arguably, should not be voting based on a candidate, and so should vote for Jeremy Corbyn.


Why would anyone suggest voting for a worse candidate? The answer is simple. The Labour Party has a problem with coups. History shows that the party has often tried to undermine its leadership.


Let us start with Harold Wilson. Wilson became famous for having to play the two aforementioned factions against each other in order to keep in control. One could argue he did this rather successfully. However, this tactic has not worked so well for modern Labour leaders.


Tony Blair, although having made a number of errors, has had his reputation tarnished not just by the right-wing in British politics but also by the “hard left” within the Labour Party. The obvious comeback to this is that the Party may indeed have had to separate themselves from Blair after the Iraq Inquiry began; but Blair’s successor shows that the pattern, rather than dying down, has actually intensified.


Gordon Brown arguably lost the 2010 election in one night before any votes had been cast. I am obviously talking about the mass resignations that began with MPs such as Geoff Hoon, allegedly over talks that Brown wanted to bring in some more left-wing MPs such as Ed Balls into major cabinet positions. These resignations were conducted every hour to cause maximum political damage to Brown, and, as Brown did not resign, led to Labour losing power. Indeed, even under Ed Miliband there was open talk of a coup with allegations being thrown against MP Chris Bryant for organising resignations.


So how is this relevant to the current situation? For a start MP Hillary Benn allegedly admitted to Mr Corbyn that he had been organising resignations. Then proceeded a day of clockwork resignations with one coming every hour, just like under Brown. Those resigning, although I do not believe as part of a coup, included current challenger Owen Smith. This was, in my opinion, a dereliction of duty to hold the Conservatives to account, and has crippled Labour in the polls.


Therefore, by voting for Smith members would effectively not be voting for the candidate, but to legitimize the coups within the Labour Party. Conversely, by voting for Corbyn, members are in effect voting to stamp out the act of coup plotting.

Why is this important? Polling shows that divided parties lose elections. Labour’s current polling is much lower than any of the polling pre-split.


The argument Smith supporters may make against this point is that he can unite the party; this is simply not the case. Smith will unite the majority of the PLP but cannot unite the membership after having resigned from the cabinet. Furthermore, the ‘hard left’ will only be rendered bitter by such an action, and may seek to undermine Smith and damage Labour’s chances in 2020.


Therefore, it can be seen that those with a vote in the leadership contest should vote for Jeremy Corbyn, not for the man himself, but to stop the history of coups within Labour continuing, and in turn, make the Party more electable in the future.


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