But crucially, his critics within the Labour Party have every right to fight backby Peter Kellner / July 12, 2017 / Leave a comment
Some of Labour’s finest MPs have been targeted for deselection. They include Luciana Berger (Liverpool, Wavertree, who has also had to endure anti-Semitic abuse), Thangham Debbonaire (who more than doubled her vote last month in Bristol West to 47,000), Peter Kyle (who has already seen off one attempt by Momentum to oust him in Hove), Stella Creasy (Walthamstow’s heroine of various causes including the regulation of loan sharks and the rights of Northern Irish women seeking abortions), Margaret Hodge (Barking’s fiercely effective scrutineer of government waste as chair of the Public Accounts Committee), Chuka Umunna (the Streatham MP who should be discussed as a future party leader, not a potential victim of deselection) and Ben Bradshaw (who survived a nasty homophobic campaign to gain Exeter in 1997 and now has a new kind of nastiness to contend with).
These are among 49 MPs identified by a Momentum group in South Tyneside. Their list has since been disowned, and shadow ministers close to the leadership have been downplaying suggestions that good constituency MPs should be deselected. In practical terms, the leadership would be mad to purge the parliamentary party just now. A new general election could be called at any time, and Labour could win it—but not if it ousts some of its most talented MPs.
However, the activists on Tyneside have a point. There is a fundamental divide between the ideology espoused for much of their adults lives by Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell and their most enthusiastic followers—and the form of social democracy espoused by most Labour MPs, including those on the Tyneside hit-list. If you believe that Britain needs to renationalise public transport, the banks and the major utilities, that the private sector should play no role in education or health-care, and that taxes should rise sharply to pay for much better-funded public services, including free university education—then it makes sense to fight to remove MPs who think that is all nonsense, even if the short-term effect of dividing the party is to reduce its chances of winning an early election.
The real question is: are Corbyn and McDonnell, and the people around them, still…