Labour Party

… And the Hope of Hopi Sen

Like Gene, I enjoy reading Dan Hodges. However I wasn’t sure about the initial reasoning he offered for leaving the Labour Party in his latest piece. Having rejoined to help kick out Jeremy Corbyn, he first put forward two specific reasons for abandoning this project: reports that MPs were deferring a direct challenge to Corbyn until 2017 and the news that ISIS is now murdering children with Down’s syndrome.

I think the plan to defer a challenge seems reasonable given the current scale of support for Corbyn.  And those who voted against action weren’t all reflexive stoppers, or indifferent to the depravity of ISIS.  However Hodges’ disgust at Stop the War’s antics, and at Corbyn’s involvement with the group, is entirely understandable.  I think Hodges could simply have offered this passage:

Jeremy Corbyn knew all of this. And despite that, he arrived at the party and told the assembled gathering: “I’ve been proud to be the chair of the Stop the War coalition, proud to be associated with the Stop The War coalition. We are very strong, there are very many more of us than there are of those people that want to take us in the other direction.” That was the leader of the Labour party who said that. My leader.

as sufficient cause for leaving, as well as his denunciation of Corbyn’s insistence on cosying up with extremists.

He doesn’t share their views. But he offers himself as a conduit for them.

So, overall, I think he makes a good case for deciding that enough is enough, although I don’t think this is fully fair:

And – via their mute acquiescence – he has the bulk of his parliamentary party standing behind him.

By contrast Hopi Sen, while taking a similarly dim view of Corbyn, is determined to remain a member.  This piece got off to a strong start.  I’m always unsure about those who emphasise that Corbyn is an electoral liability.  If that’s your main reason, then would you back him if he turned out to be popular?  Or are you hiding the fact that what you really think is this?

I do not want Jeremy Corbyn to be Prime Minister.

There are lots of ways of saying that and then dodging whether I’d vote Labour if he was our candidate for Prime Minister. I have a good local MP and I live in a safe seat, so really my individual vote is irrelevant. I could hide in such ambiguity. I  don’t want to.

In principle, I won’t vote for Jeremy Corbyn becoming Prime Minister. If there was a chance my vote could make that happen, I would vote for another party.

However the reasoning Sen offers for remaining a member seems rather tortuous and legalistic.

Chapter 2, Clause 1 Para 8 says:

“No member of the Party shall engage in conduct which in the opinion of the NEC is prejudicial, or in any act which in the opinion of the NEC is grossly detrimental to the Party.”

The paragraph concludes, however:

“The NCC shall not have regard to the mere holding or expression of beliefs and opinions.”

So I can, and will, say I will not support Jeremy Corbyn to be Prime Minister.

He contemplates leaving the party during polling in order to comply with the rulebook, only to rejoin immediately afterwards. I’m not sure about this position. It’s one thing to decide to go against the party line on one occasion – perhaps voting against Ken in London – but odd to remain indefinitely the member of a party one hopes will lose.

I agree with Hodges that Corbyn’s support within the Labour Party and the left more generally seems strong.  But for that reason I think moderate MPs are right to hold fire for now.  Initiatives such as Labour First are evidence that there is plenty of dissent out there. The best chance of ditching Corbynism would seem to be a practical demonstration that the leader is unpopular with the wider public.

However if Labour performs respectably in May 2016, it will be more difficult to mount a leadership challenge, and at that point I’d probably leave the party.