Bridges Over Troubled Water: Can poachers ever be trusted gamekeepers?

Those behind Labour’s coup would like to convince people that they are better equipped to lead the Labour party than the current leadership. The briefest of analysis shows us that a) those behind the coup’s strategy for replacing Corbyn was to perpetually undermine his leadership from the moment he took over as leader and, when the time came, to, by whatever means, enlist a sufficient number of the PLP to force Corbyn to resign b) they failed. The coup was forced into putting forward an actual “challenger” to Corbyn and, despite every effort to commit election fraud, they are expected to still lose the leadership election, such is the lack of popularity of the person they chose to stand against Corbyn. If the coup’s patsy does lose then the electorate will be faced with two truths from this debacle. As it currently stands, the Labour leadership does not have the majority support of its MPs and the opposition to the current leadership has only the tiniest level of support of any other part of the Labour party.

If anyone involved with the coup genuinely considers these outcomes as victories and signifiers of their better capability to lead the party, then they’re a danger to themselves.

But is there a way forward?

Owen Jones would like the membership to forget these past few months and the very clearly vocalised commitment from those behind and part of the coup to continue to try and sink the party. My first reaction to that was and has always been that Labour can ill-afford to permit such destructive voices to have any influence in the party. They should face deselection and expulsion. But is there another way?

Labour must be able to protect itself from the perceived threats from the Hard Left and the actual threats from the Extreme Right. It will ultimately be up to CLPs whether they deselect their MPs and it will be up to the Compliance Unit to expel any members who have transgressed their membership. Labour requires changes to its structures that will defend Labour from threats in the future, both perceived and actual. Those who have expressed their intentions to continue to try and wreck Labour should be met with more robust defences of the party. The gerrymandering that has been witnessed should see failsafes built to ensure there is no repeat.

My personal belief is that there is a core group of less than 50 people who believe that Labour is the private fiefdom for them to play out their personal political ideologies, aspirations, ambitions, fantasies. It is the same private politics that we witnessed with David Cameron. A mix of ex MPs, current MPs, wealthy patrons, and a diminishing ragtag of willing/invested/remunerated acolytes. They are attached to Labour because Labour is one of the games in town and if they can’t play in Labour they will take their roadshow to the LibDems, where they already have bridges. I have no time for them in Labour but, even amongst this group, there will be people who do have potential to offer Labour a positive contribution. Labour needs a robustness that can withstand the worst that the worst indulgences of this hard core can throw at it, to save them from themselves but to also tap into any positive contribution they can make.

My worry is that, possibly unlike Owen Jones, I have no confidence that poachers can become gamekeepers and the worst tendencies of those in the coup will always trump Labour’s best interests.

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