AT 1pm today (Tuesday) more than 600 members of Wolverhampton South West Constituency Labour Party were informed by email that their Leadership Nomination meeting – scheduled for tomorrow – had been cancelled.
The CLP executive said the cancellation was due to: “The High Court ruling yesterday, we would have to invite over 600 members, which can’t be accommodated and it is not possible to find a larger venue in 24 hours and inform all members”.
A final denial of democracy in this gerrymandered leadership election.
Sharp intake of breath.
Then with a bitter twist of irony, a letter arrived from the sitting Labour MP Rob Marris explaining why we (ordinary Labour Party members in Wolverhampton South West) should NOT be voting for the incumbent leader Jeremy Corbyn.
But this was no ordinary letter… it was a SEVEN page epistle of Marks and Spencer’s proportions dripping with bile, innuendo, misinformation and personal vitriol.
It was one of the most nasty and poisonous attacks by an MP on his party leader that I have seen in over 30 years as a journalist and political commentator.
Maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised, after all, Mr Marris is the MP who:
- Emailed party members on 25 June explaining why he had lost confidence in Jeremy Corbyn – a full five days BEFORE he took his turn to resign from the Shadow Cabinet.
- Blamed Mr Corbyn’s failure to address Eastern European immigration as the reason for the Brexit referendum vote. In doing so he took a leaf out of Nigel Farage’s book of blame by stating that this was the “perception” of his constituents.
- And now backs Owen Smith for leader (he included Mr Smith’s leadership campaign leaflet with his letter) – the former PR professional whose blundering handed thousands of Welsh votes to UKIP in the 2014 EU elections.
So let’s address some of what Mr Marris has to say in his seven page assault. It starts quite tamely but gets a lot worse.
My observations and answers are in bold:
- I have observed with dismay the declining state of the Labour Party since the missed opportunity of May 2015. Firstly there was the precipitate resignation of Ed Miliband. Next there was the lacklustre 2015 leadership campaign, in which I nominated no candidate. That led to the election of Jeremy Corbyn.
“Lacklustre” leadership campaign! I and many others view the 2015 leadership campaign as the most exciting ever witnessed. It engaged young and old alike, bringing in tens of thousands of people who had been disengaged from British politics for far too long.
- I loyally supported Jeremy Corbyn as a shadow minister for 10 months. However, after the PLP ballot showed that 80% of the PLP had lost confidence in his leadership, I then told him that I regarded his position as untenable.
See my note above: Mr Marris had emailed Wolverhampton South West Labour Party members on 25 June explaining why he had lost confidence in Jeremy Corbyn well before the ballot result of 28 June and his resignation two days after that.
- The May 2016 results in England were quite a bit worse than they should have been, given six years of an unpopular Conservative government and George Osborne’s failed medicine of extreme austerity. However much he wants to spin and deny it, Mr Corbyn is the first opposition leader since 1985 to lose council seats in a non-General Election year.
Labour’s results in the May elections were better than Tony Blair, David Cameron and Ed Miliband for a leader of party in his first year in office. If we ignore the debacle in Scotland – caused by a Blairite Scottish leadership under Progress backed Kesia Dugdale – Labour finished the elections in control of 58 English councils and 1,326 seats, compared to the Tories 38 councils and 842 seats – in addition the Tories LOST 48 seats! The smokescreen of Mr Corbyn’s poor showing in the May elections, is just that: a smokescreen.
- All of this happened before Jeremy Corbyn fired Hilary Benn which precipitated the wave of resignations.
Mr Corbyn fired Mr Benn because the Leeds Central MP admitted that he was organising a coup and telephoning fellow MPs, persuading them to resign from the Shadow Cabinet.
- Over the last two months, Labour’s standing in opinion polling has gone from bad to worse. The July ICM opinion poll saw the Conservative lead stretch to 16%, and we are seeing regular double-digit Conservative polling leads in polls generally. 42% of those who voted Labour in May 2015 will no longer commit to voting Labour again at a general election.
During the last week of June – days before the coup against Mr Corbyn, Labour was neck and neck with the Tories in all opinion polls – and ahead in two polls. The demise of Labour in opinion polls is wholly due to the party being split by the coup and those like you, Mr Marris who seek to undermine the leader and party unity. As Joe Public I certainly wouldn’t vote Labour at this present time!
- Mr Corbyn has not been able to command the political respect of those who have worked most closely with him and observed him close-up. His decision not to resign when he is unable to command the support of even a “substantial body” of MPs, let alone a majority, flies in the face of the recognition of the need for such support when the new system for electing the party leader was drawn up.
Why should he resign? He was elected by us, the membership and NOT by you Mr Marris or most of the MPs who have plotted against him. Democracy starts and ends with the members and is NOT vested in the hands of 172 self-seeking career MPs. Let’s now wait and see whether the members re-elect Mr Corbyn. Then maybe it is time for you to seek a new party?
- Given the result of that ballot of MPs, on Wednesday morning 29 June I texted and e-mailed to Mr Corbyn saying that I believed his position was untenable. Rudely, he did not bother to respond. He continues stubbornly to cling to office. So on Thursday 30 June I resigned as a junior Shadow Treasury minister.
See my answer to #2 above. Mr Corbyn was hardly the one being rude as he struggled to reform the Shadow Cabinet amid the treachery of MPs like yourself.
- Mr Corbyn’s supporters try to hoodwink people as to his mandate. In 2015 Mr Corbyn got 251,417 (= 59.5%) votes cast by Labour members and supporters. In 1994 Mr Blair got 507,950 (= 57.00%) of the votes cast by members and supporters – well over twice what Mr Corbyn achieved.
The clue is in the percentage. Mr Blair was elected by a larger electorate. It is still true that Mr Corbyn has the biggest mandate (59.5%) on a first ballot than any Labour leader in history. Political analysts have calculated that if the election had progressed to a 4th ballot (Corbyn v Burnham) his likely share of the vote would have been closer to 70%, as many supporters of Yvette Cooper are now backing Mr Corbyn!
- It saddens me to have to say that Mr Corbyn is a hypocrite as well. In 1988 he and the handful of his fellow MPs in the tiny Campaign Group voted out of the blue to launch Tony Benn’s challenge to the leader Neil Kinnock.
In 1988 Mr Corbyn was a backbencher and free to vote for whoever he wanted in what was then an open leadership election. He was NOT a Shadow Cabinet minister sworn to loyalty to the leadership, as you were in June 2016. And he was never part of coup!
- Jeremy Corbyn as an MP voted against the Labour whip over 500 times – and now he lectures us on loyalty! Mr Blair had an almost equally strong mandate from the Party. In addition Mr Blair had the overwhelming support of Labour MPs. Furthermore he also won three General Elections.
Mr Corbyn was a backbench MP free to vote on conscience and stayed true to his principles and his constituents. Mr Blair may have won three General Elections, but he also took us into an illegal war in Iraq on the back of a raft of lies. A war which saw the murder of 500,000 innocent people. In addition, undisputed UN figures show that 1.7 million Iraqi civilians also died due to the West’s brutal sanctions regime, supported by Mr Blair. Winning elections and murdering women and children is not why I support a Labour leader. Do I sense a bit of a Blairite in you, Mr Marris?
- The problems Labour now faces certainly did not start under Jeremy Corbyn, but he was lukewarm about Remain, and so the Labour Remain campaign never really got out of second gear. The BBC’s Chief Political Correspondent, Laura Kuenssberg, used evidence from correspondence between the Leader’s office and the Labour Remain campaign to report last month how: “documents passed to the BBC suggest Jeremy Corbyn’s office sought to delay and water down the Labour Remain campaign”, verging on deliberate sabotage.
I find it most interesting that you take anything that the Tory BBC correspondent Laura Kuenssberg says as either evidence or true. She is the most overtly politically biased reporter I have ever had the misfortune to come across.
- He sounded as if he were comparing the government of Israel to Islamic State a when he spoke his own press conference on anti-Semitism on 1 July this year, reportedly in prepared remarks. He said: “Our Jewish friends are no more responsible for the actions of Israel or the Netanyahu government than our Muslim friends are for those of various self-styled Islamic states or organisations.” What a maladroit comparison.
As a history graduate, former history teacher and campaigner for the liberation of Palestine, I suggest you look more closely at (a) How Israel came into being by the wholesale theft of land (b) Its ongoing atrocities against the Palestinian people and (c) The murder of 2,200 (United Nations OCHA figures) innocent men, women and children in Gaza in the summer of 2014. But more importantly, you (like John Mann MP and others) are deliberately equating Jews with Zionist Israel to smear Mr Corbyn and others with the anti-semitism brush. Not all Jews are Zionists, just as not all Zionists are Jews. Something Mr Corbyn was trying the illuminate.
- At that same press conference an anti-racist campaigning MP was abused by a member of the audience, yet Mr Corbyn said nothing; nothing.
The MP was Ruth Smeeth – a Progress backed MP and opponent of Mr Corbyn – who span the incident for her own advantage. Mr Corbyn had no locus to intervene as the meeting was being chaired by Shami Chakrabarti.
- Mr Corbyn has made several appearances on Press TV, for which he was paid (and duly declared) several times. Press TV is part of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s tightly controlled broadcasting machinery. Its director is appointed by Iran’s Supreme Leader – the country’s chief religious and political authority – which means that its output is often biased in favour of strict establishment ideology.
Iran is the victim of black Western propaganda, instigated by the US following the fall of the Shah in 1979 – the Shah was a puppet of the West who came to power in an Anglo-American coup d’état in 1953. Iran is not perfect but a darn sight fairer and less aggressive than Turkey or Israel. It is a bastion of true Islam – unlike the capitalist Islam of Saudi Arabia or the UAE. And judging by recent reporting and the LSE study of media bias, the BBC’s output is also “often biased in favour of strict establishment ideology”.
- For many years he has offered apologetics for dictatorship and anti-democracy. For example, he has championed/made excuses for the IRA, the Venezuelan autocrat Hugo Chavez, the undemocratic Fidel Castro, and of course Hamas and Hezbollah.
A study in the history of the island of Ireland, Venezuela, Palestine, Lebanon and Cuba is recommended. I tend to remember Mr Cameron and Margaret Thatcher describing Nelson Mandela and the ANC as terrorists. One man’s terrorist is far too often another man’s freedom fighter.
- On 12 July the NEC met to discuss how to proceed with the leadership election. NEC member Johanna Baxter later said of that meeting: “The leader of the Labour party voted against the proposal that we conduct our vote in private in order to protect NEC members who were receiving threats, bullying and intimidation. He voted against it. He endorsed bullying, threats and intimidation, by the fact of that vote.”
The bullying smear and smokescreen appears again! Johanna Baxter’s cyber bully was a woman named Claire Khaw – a far right Nazi who had no links to the Labour Party and certainly none to Jeremy Corbyn. At the NEC meeting Mr Corbyn was defending transparent democracy and not the antics of some far right nutter.
- On Monday 27 June 2016 Mr Corbyn addressed a rally of his supporters outside Parliament, where several participants were wearing T-shirts emblazoned with “eradicate Blairite vermin”. Mr Corbyn did not upbraid let alone castigate them for doing so, even though this took place less than a fortnight after a Labour MP was murdered.
There were an estimated 3,000 people at that spontaneous rally. While most were Labour Party members, others (such as two friends of mine) had no party allegiance while others belonged to the Socialist Workers Party, The Greens, Class War and many other organisations. Evidence has also emerged that the people wearing crisp new “eradicate Blairite vermin” T-shirts were backed by Progress as part of a stunt to undermine the supporters. Mr Corbyn is leader of the Labour Party… he is NOT the Messiah!
- Post Script: In my opinion Mr Marris is out-of-touch with the Labour membership, out of touch with his constituents and out of touch with what is happening around him. His letter is the longest suicide note in history and I hope that once the leadership election is over, we as Labour Party members will seek his deselection and that of other MPs with similar views.