Is Labour being subjected to a ‘soft’ ‘coup’? Only in as much as it has since 2007. Since Tony Blair was forced from office, those attracted to the party by the promise of access to the highest offices of power and the money and prestige (but mainly the money) that accompanies them have been fighting to get themselves back to the head of the table. Brown, Miliband (Ed, not Doris) and now Corbyn have all suffered from not being this small band of people, joined by their desire to serve the interests of Britain’s wealthy patrons, serving themselves instead if the best interests of the British public.
The ‘leak’ of McDonnell’s statement is strangely timed and, remarkably, has wiped the ‘Copeland is proof that Corbyn should resign’ off the news feed. My guess, the public don’t much care about the anti Corbyn stories like Copeland and stories like the soft coup shuffle and Clive Lewis’s supposed website registrations just keep the pot simmering. Drip, drip.
The notion of the ‘soft coup’ than John McDonnell is widely being attributed to having warned of is one that does not include a direct challenger for the leadership but is like the death of a thousand cuts of constant briefings against the party. The idea that this is something new is amusing but it is also a sign that our erstwhile ‘wreckers’ cannot get the level of support within the party that they were able to scare up last June. I suspect that the wider population of MPs in Labour’s PLP are wise to the fact that the ‘wreckers’ might be able to get negative headlines and might be able to get airtime for any MP that is willing to drag Labour through the mud and smear the leadership but, crucially, they can’t get/bully Corbyn into resigning and can’t match the media ‘support’ their money can buy with public support or support within the party. They aren’t a ‘soft’ coup, they’re a toothless one.
You only have to look back to Owen Smith’s leadership campaign last year to see what Labour’s ‘wreckers’ have to offer Labour. Smith’s campaign was built on negativity, his campaigners and supporters knew from the gun that they could offer nothing positive to sell their candidate to the party, so they went in the only direction they could, nasty and negative. Divisive would be the politest way you could describe Smith and his campaign. Embarrassing, naive, politically illiterate are a few other words you might use. It was a continuation of the campaign that had been ongoing from day one of Corbyn’s tenure as Labour leader. The consistent briefing against the leadership is the only tool they have in their bag, Corbyn’s leadership has been twice mandated by the party and is going nowhere. The PLP have a clearer idea of the choice they have to make. Act as a party or fall in with the party’s detractors and ‘wreckers’.
The ‘soft’ coup is the same one that has been going on since 2007 but, unlike Brown and Miliband, Corbyn is not going to be bullied from the leadership. The leadership are working to minimise the impact the ‘wreckers’ can have, and I hope we see that continue and even escalate, but I also hope we see the PLP uniting with the leadership, CLPs, and membership to inoculate Labour from the ghosts that have been a stain on Labour for approaching a decade. The 10th of May and the 24th of June could be dates for your diary.