Did you hear what’s happening in UK politics right now? It’s intense. No, I’m not talking about the so-called Brexit vote, that’s a whole other can of worms. I’m talking about something a bunch of Labour Party MPs would very much like you to see as a by-product of that vote: their attempted coup against leader Jeremy Corbyn.
The thing is it’s not about the UK voting to leave the EU at all. Corbyn campaigned against it as did soon-to-be-former Prime Minister David Cameron. Unlike Cameron, though, Corbyn didn’t call for the vote in the first place to appease right wing elements in his own party, in fact he refused the right-wing bait of appeasing racist anti-immigrant voters. Also unlike Cameron, Corbyn isn’t planning on resigning anytime soon.
While Corbyn became the leader with the votes of over 60% of Labour Party members, his supporters have always been a minority among current Members of Parliament, the people he had to choose from for his shadow cabinet appointments. Many of his elected opponents can be called Blairites, loyal to former Labour leader Tony Blair and those that followed in his footsteps.
Blair is also a man Corbyn isn’t opposed to charging with war crimes if he becomes Prime Minister. For that and other reasons, chief among them Corbyn’s opposition to war, support of mass immigration, intent to nationalize rail transport and other industries and support for Palestine, a good number of Labour MPs have been trying to oust their leader for months.
In the past few days, those same anti-Corbyn forces have cloaked themselves in the lost Brexit vote and stepped up their attacks. First, there were a slew of high-profile resignations and the high-profile firing (or sacking) of Hilary Benn after Corbyn realized what was happening. Then, yesterday, 172 Labour MPs voted for a motion of no confidence in their leader with 40 voting against.
Only the party members can forcibly remove their leader, and they show no sign of wanting to do that. In fact, they are publicly rallying for him in large numbers. So this vote was effectively meaningless, unless, of course, Corbyn felt the pressure and resigned.
He didn’t. Instead, he called their bluff and his supporters are responding that if Labour MPs want him to go, they should ask the party members to remove him with a leadership challenge.
Now, today, anti-Corbyn forces are talking about jumping ship and forming a new party, possibly calling it Save Labour. Save it from what, I wonder? The will of its own members? A chance to actually be a progressive party and not a neo-liberal alternative to neo-conservatism? Stop it from winning (as a Corbyn-led Labour very well might)?
I wonder what would happen if the situation was reversed and Corbyn had been ousted and his supporters started calling for the formation of a new party. They would undoubtedly be labelled traitors and accused of helping the Tories, or worse, UKIP, getting elected. It would be similar to the way Bernie Sanders supporters (similar to Sanders, Corbyn wants to do away with college tuition, btw) in the US who argue that the Green Party or a new party are the only ways forward are being treated by many in the mainstream press.
Speaking of the press, just look at the coverage this story is getting on this side of the Atlantic. While British press can’t simply play this off as Brexit fallout (their readers know better), sites like Politico in the US are doing just that on social media and getting away with it.
Some of the mainstream UK media I’ve seen, meanwhile, has been treating Corbyn’s departure as a done deal, playing up his opponents’ attacks and downplaying public support. Sound familiar?
It’s becoming clear that the biggest obstacles to progress, be it in the UK, the US or here in Canada aren’t the forces of the right, but rather the establishment of political parties supposedly on the left and their allies in the media.
If they succeed in removing truly progressive politicians from leadership roles in political parties or denying them that role in the first place, they shouldn’t be surprised if people wanting real, good, progressive change lose all faith in achieving their goals through the political process and take to the streets instead.
* Featured image: Democracy Now