Corbyn blamed for Brexit

Margaret Hodge calls for a vote of no confidence in Jeremy Corbyn

Margaret Hodge MP
Dame Margaret Hodge MP

With the Tories on the ropes following a shock EU referendum defeat and the resignation of David Cameron, Dame Margaret Hodge’s call for Jeremy Corbyn’s resignation was greeted with dismay by many Labour supporters[1].

The right wing of the Labour’s Parliamentary Party (PLP), rather than holding the Tories accountable for the outcome of their party’s civil war, decided instead to try and launch one themselves.

Margaret Hodge’s vociferous criticism of Corbyn, as well as revealing a condescending attitude towards Labour voters (“..Labour voters simply didn’t get the message”), is ironic in view of a Polly Toynbee article. She recounts an open-door meeting held by Hodge where she tried to address an audience of fifty constituents on the benefits of remaining in the EU[2]. Hodge’s case for remain was angrily rejected out of hand.

If Margaret Hodge, “a well-respected, diligent MP”, was unable to persuade a captive audience of fifty of her own constituents then it’s baffling as to what Corbyn could have done apart from aping the discredited ‘Project Fear‘ campaign of the remain camp. As Polly Toynbee observed of those favouring Brexit:

“Jeremy Corbyn is under fire for half-heartedness, but I doubt he, Brown or any Labour figure could budge them.”

With the whole debate framed as immigration versus the economy, Cameron versus Boris and a media that prefers Shakespearean drama to Plato’s discourse, a more nuanced argument just wasn’t going to get much of a hearing.

In the event, a Lord Ashcroft poll revealed that 63% of Labour voters voted to remain, not quite so disastrous as claimed by the right-wing.

At face value the timing of the call for a no confidence vote seems to be the height of tactical stupidity, only serving to take the heat off the Tories.

Closer examination, however, reveals a pattern of behaviour. Whenever Labour has had the Tories on the ropes, up pops a Blairite to engage in verbal chaff or call for his resignation.

One could be forgiven for believing that this rump of MPs are engaged in project ‘Tory bail out’.

This may be closer to the truth than one would think. In an interview with The Independent, Tony Blair inadvertently expressed the psychology of Labour’s right-wing:

“Let me make my position clear: I wouldn’t want to win on an old-fashioned leftist platform. Even if I thought it was the route to victory, I wouldn’t take it.”

In a nutshell, the Labour right are so ideologically opposed to a left[ist] platform they would rather lose a general election….

Reality is if there was another leadership contest Corbyn would win. The only way to prevent that would be to stop him being put on the ballot. In that event, the winner would have won by cheating and rigging the vote. They would have no authority or credibility as leader.

The truth is, if the right wing are successful, there would be a higher probability of Labour losing the next election than if Jeremy Corbyn was leader – but, that rather is the point isn’t it…

Gary Hollands – June 25th 2016.

Postscript

The day after writing Labour’s right-wing took advantage of the Brexit vote as a convenient hook to hang a coup on.

In the planning openly for months it used mass resignations of the shadow cabinet spread out over two days combined with support from ‘left’ leaning papers such as the Guardian and the Mirror.

Daily Mirror: 28th June 2016
Daily Mirror Front Page 28th June 2016

After a stormy meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party Monday night, Jeremy Corbyn addressed a rally of around 10,000 supporters that had been called at 24 hours notice.

Today, Tuesday 28th June, the next stage will play out with a vote of no confidence which the right-wing look set to win.

The clear aim of this strategy is to force Corbyn to resign and avoid a leadership election with him on the ballot.

Though difficult to predict the outcome the stakes are high, Labour’s right-wing whether they realise it or not, have gambled everything on the success of this coup.

With such a slender base of support in the Labour Party the price of failure for the right-wing may well be marginalisation as a rump within the Parliamentary Labour Party.

Notes and references

1. At the time of writing, two petitions supporting Jeremy Corbyn, one on 38 Degrees collected nearly 140,000 in a day. Another by Momentum, a pro-Corbyn group in the Labour Party, had collected over 30,000.

2. It’s worth quoting this account from The Guardian at length;
“Every week in Barking the MP Margaret Hodge invites a whole ward for coffee and biscuits to air whatever’s on their minds. When the BNP shockingly won 12 council seats, those open-door meetings dealing with everyday grievances saw her make the case and beat them off, so the BNP lost every seat. On Friday about 50 voters came, wanting to talk about ordinary things – parking, fly-tipping and houses in multiple occupation crammed with migrants by rogue landlords. Hodge and her volunteers went from table to table recording everyone’s issues, writing to them later with resolutions.

But at the end when she asked the hall about the referendum, the mood changed. “We didn’t come to talk about that!” one angry woman said, others agreeing. “We came about parking!” But Hodge insisted, making an eloquent remain case: shrinking services are caused by Tory austerity that halved their council’s budget, more than migrants. The room bristled with antagonism. “Do you want to be governed by Brussels?” one shouted out. “You’re being sold a false prospectus, a bunch of lies,” she said, to no avail. One said: “When I get out at the station, I think I’m in another country. Labour opened the floodgates.”

They like her, a well-respected, diligent MP, but they weren’t listening. She demolished the £350m myth, but they clung to it. She told them housing shortages were due to Tory sell-offs and failure to build but a young man protested that he was falling further down the waiting list, with immigrants put first. Barking’s long-time residents come first, she said, but she was not believed. I found just two remainers.

This is Labour London, supposedly remain’s stronghold, though the Barking and Dagenham Post finds 67% for Brexit. Jeremy Corbyn is under fire for half-heartedness, but I doubt he, Brown or any Labour figure could budge them. Roused by anti-migrant leavers, will they ever revert to Labour? Their neighbourhoods have changed beyond recognition, without them being asked.”

The Borough of Barking & Dagenham, which includes Margaret Hodge’s Barking constituency voted 62.4% to leave the EU.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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