Like Corbyn, none of his prospective successors are prepared to challenge the Labour right head on, says Stan Keable
Although not surprising, Jeremy Corbyn’s decision to stand down as leader after resisting for so long the unremitting bullying by Labour’s right wing and the entire establishment is immensely disappointing for the party’s mass rank and file, who would still vote him in, given the chance.
For all their noise, the right cannot force him out. They can easily muster the required 20% of the combined MPs (203) and MEPs (10) to nominate a challenger, but they dare not, because in a ‘one member, one vote’ contest any so-called ‘moderate’ would be thrashed by the leftwing membership.
Corbyn does not have to go; he ought not to resign – he should stay at his post in order to lead the fight to empower Labour’s membership, oust the party’s pro-capitalism career politicians and bureaucrats and show what the workers’ movement can do in opposition. But that is not Corbyn. His time in office has been frittered away appeasing the right, not fighting them.
In the election for leader and deputy leader, when the time comes, each candidate will require nominations by 10% of the combined Parliamentary Labour Party and European PLP – ie, 22 parliamentarians – as well as either 5% of Constituency Labour Parties or “3 affiliates (at least 2 of which shall be trade union affiliates) compromising 5 percent of affiliated membership” (rule 2Bi).
We can be sure, this time, that no rightwing “morons” will ‘lend’ their nominations to a left candidate. But although the parliamentary left can surely muster 22 nominees, can they be brought behind the same candidates for leader and deputy leader – and how will this slate be chosen? If Momentum is touting Angela Rayner and Rebecca Long-Bailey, as the Daily Mail states, we should treat those contenders with some considerable caution.
What an unworthy crew of potential candidates is on offer. None has stood up against the false anti-Semitism claims, as Chris Williamson did; none has shown solidarity with its victims.
Keir Starmer: chair of the PLP and the preferred candidate of its rightwing majority, he is unlikely to gain the votes of the left membership under present circumstances. His claim to be a “socialist” is accompanied by what amounts to a promise to continue appeasing Labour’s Blairites. True, he seems to have been a member of the International Revolutionary Marxist Tendency and served on the editorial board of Socialist Alternatives (an obscure, soft left, quarterly Pabloite publication). But that was in the 1980s – a lifetime ago.
Emily Thornberry: a wolf in sheep’s clothing, she is apparently loyal to both Corbyn and Labour Friends of Israel, which protects her from the anti-Semitism smear. Can garner left votes by using vicarious anti-fascist rhetoric: she would have fought the blackshirts at Cable Street, of course.
Rebecca Long-Bailey: the continuity candidate promoted by John McDonnell and frequently praised by Len McCluskey.Would use nuclear weapons “if circumstances required” – a signal to the capitalist establishment that she would be a loyal servant of the current order.
Lisa Nandy: a ‘moderate’ remainer, she was suggested as a possible leader by the soft left Owen Jones at the time of the Owen Smith (who?) leadership challenge. Resigned from Corbyn’s shadow cabinet in June 2016 as part of the rightwing bid to remove him.
Angela Rayner: softest of the soft left, she preferred Harriet Harman to Corbyn as leader. Voted against an enquiry into the Iraq war and took up the luxury, all-expenses-paid propaganda visit to Israel offered to all new MPs by Labour Friends of Israel. Back in 2015, Angela “ideology never put food on my table” Rayner gave honest praise to Norman Finkelstein’s The holocaust industry as a “seminal” book, but retracted this when faced with the Labour anti-Semitism witch-hunt. When she was shadow education secretary in December 2018, she told the Board of Deputies annual Chanukah reception “how sorry I am for that”. Over the last few days she has pared down her ambitions. The story is that she will run for deputy leader on Long-Bailey’s ticket. Richard Burgon is also considering the same proposition.
Jess Phillips: although the Daily Mail’s favourite, she is being sold as a ‘salt of the earth’ real working class woman from Brum, unlike all those with a London accent. Has the gift of the gab, able to dismiss potential rivals to her left as being not really working class. Has joined with the campaign of expelled Blairite spin doctor Alastair Campbell to recruit 100,000 “centrists” to rejoin the party and prevent figures “similar” to Corbyn “such as Rebecca Long-Bailey or Angela Rayner taking the reins”. She will surely have Tony Blair and some big money behind her campaign – perhaps the prelude to a rightwing split, if a Corbyn-continuity candidate wins. She claims that “millions” have asked her to be Labour leader.
Yvette Cooper: ran against Corbyn in 2015. From the right of the PLP. However, the more thinking sections of the right may well prefer going with a candidate from the shadow cabinet in the expectation that they can be turned against the left – like Neil Kinnock. Doubtless she wants to keep her profile high in the hope of promotion.
Clive Lewis: dabbles with the left occasionally, but has made his position perfectly clear when it comes to the anti-Zionism equals anti-Semitism witch-hunt: he is on the wrong side. Lewis talks about wanting to “play a key role in helping rebuilding our party.” By that he means himself as leader and rebuilding the PLP, not Labour’s constituency organisations. He too peddles the line that he will be “able to take the left and centre of the party, and beyond, and be able to defend our democracy and be in a position where aggressive politics of this country can challenge the Conservatives” – code for attacking the left and capitulating to the Blairite right. Paul Mason’s perfect candidate: he too calls for the unity of “left and centre” and “reaching out”.
David Lammy: a failed Blairite, though he has won the support of The Spectator’s Rod Liddle. Stands little chance, given that he is coming from backbench obscurity.