Tom Watson is right: Corbyn and the rest of the Labour leadership need to take stock of why these MPs left; otherwise, more will follow.
I’d almost forgotten what an exciting week in politics looked like. It’s been Brexit this and Brexit that for months now, and whilst the headlines haven’t exactly been ‘dull’, you can understand one getting rather tired of the media merry-go-round of ‘Brexit seems to be bad, but we’re doing it anyway, even if bad stuff happens’.
The launch of ‘the Independent Group’ yesterday — a group of seven former Labour MPs that include former ‘young stars’ like Luciana Berger and Chuka Umunna — has certainly shaken things up a bit (even if, somewhat inevitably, talk rolled back around to Brexit after Honda’s big announcement). From the rather emotional speeches given by Berger and others like Mike Gapes to the catastrophic interview given by Angela Smith on Politics Live, yesterday was certainly going to be remembered as an ‘interesting’ twenty-four hours in British politics.
I’m not going to focus however on whether this new group or party or whatever this is will succeed in British politics. Go on Twitter and you’ll find a few hot-takes from both supporters and detractors, the latter takes likely supported by snide, anti-semitic comments directed at Berger. Instead, we need to (once again…) talk about Jeremy, because all of this is his fault. It really, really is. No amount of me saying “he isn’t anti-semitic but others around him are” is going to change the fact that it’s his fault. Had Jeremy Corbyn made an effort to actually live by his “nicer, gentler kind of politics” motto and the view that Labour is a “broad church” (whatever the fuck that actually means at this point) this likely could have been avoided.
Tom Watson is right when he says that he “sometimes no longer recognises” the party with whom he has dedicated a good chunk of his adult life to. Many current and former Labour MPs, councillors, members will agree with him. Not only is Watson right, if Corbyn and those around him had followed his approach (instead of attacking him as a ‘Blairite plant’ or whatever the far-left slur-of-the-day is), Labour wouldn’t be in the mess it’s currently in, divided by Brexit, dogged by very troubling instances of anti-semitic abuse being directed at MPs that have the gall, audacity or — in my view — rationality to criticise Corbyn for certain policy decisions.
Whether or not the shiny new Independent Group, SDP 2.0, ‘Gang of Seven’ or whatever you want to dub this ‘arrangement’ will succeed, only time will tell. Two things are clear, however.
Secondly, and arguably more importantly for Labour and the wider centre-left, it should be a wake-up call to the fact that Corbyn and his movement are actively damaging any future for a socially democratic UK post-Brexit or whatever happens come March 29.
The factionalism we have seen in Labour thus far — which has at times been somewhat entertaining — is now really starting to put a strain on many members who, at their core, no longer recognise the party they joined years prior. The Tories are in disarray over Brexit, and yet once again, Corbyn’s cock-ups on Brexit and anti-semitism have given them room to breathe at a time when companies are either shipping jobs, assets or potential investments out of the UK.
Corbyn needs to take a stand on Brexit, on antisemitism and on factionalism. If he doesn’t, it will be him — not simply those ‘splitters’ — who will have to face the reality of the Tories being in power for years to come.🔷
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(This piece was originally published on the PMP Blog! | The author writes in a personal capacity.)