Three is a magic number.
Yes, it is.
It’s a magic number.
Lots of talk about Labour splitting, of the conflict between two sides within Labour, but it really isn’t that binary.
Received wisdom is that, on one hand, you have the Labour party membership, the CLPs, the unions, a grassroots ‘support’ group, a quarter of the PLP and the party leadership. On the other hand, you have a majority of the current PLP, some wealthy donors, a “think tank” and some shadier popup organisations. One hand Left, one hand Right; but the reality is that, like most political organisations and social groups, Labour is a multi-limbed being.
Labour’s current divide is in three unequal parts. In descending order of size: one part holds together the membership, the CLPs, the unions, a quarter of the current PLP and the leadership. Another part has a majority of the current PLP. A third part holds a small percentage of the current PLP, wealthy donors, ‘think tank’ and the shadier popup organisations. This third, smallest, group contains those people who Lisa Nandy has referred to in an interview with Owen Jones back in July:
There are a number of people within the Parliamentary Labour party who never accepted that Jeremy Corbyn had been elected as leader and that was obvious from day one. … The group of people who decided to walk off the pitch, who have consistently tried to undermine him haven’t just done a disservice to him they have done a disservice to the Labour party because they don’t respect the office of the leader and, at that point, the system cannot survive.
It is this third group who agitated for the “coup”, a ”coup” which Nandy, in the same interview, summarised:
… nobody rang me up about a coup, nobody in their right mind would have done that … I don’t buy this idea actually that Jeremy Corbyn is responsible for the problems that we’ve got. The problems that we’ve got existed long before Jeremy Corbyn … there is a right way and a wrong way to challenge a leader and this has been a shambles
And Nandy’s proposal for taking Labour forward:
… the way you heal it is you reach out the other side, make gestures to the other side. Not, perhaps, to the small minority of people who have never wanted you to succeed, who’ve really disrespected not just you but the office of the leader of the Labour party, but the vast majority of people in the membership and in here who actually believe that you can make it work.
Labour sits at a place where the current leadership have extended olive branches to those opposing it, yet the third group who “walked off the pitch” continue to make reconciliation impossible and the second group, the group of the majority of the PLP have remained silent, dormant. Puzzling.
Three is a magic number but, sometimes, it’s also a crowd.