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How do you solve a problem like John Woodcock?

JOHN WOODCOCK’S resignation from the Labour Party is unlikely to trouble socialists.

The Barrow and Furness MP has shown no loyalty to his party since its members overwhelmingly elected Jeremy Corbyn to lead it in 2015 and again in 2016, and has seldom missed an opportunity to do it down.

Bitter losers, who refuse to acknowledge the huge political changes Britain has seen in the last three years, are affronted by the resurgence of the left and make it a point of principle to avoid understanding or engaging with Labour’s new mass membership, are sadly no rarity on Parliament’s benches, but Woodcock went further than most.

His support for the Saudi Arabian tyranny and the increasing authoritarianism of the Erdogan government in Turkey make a mockery of his attacks on Corbyn’s foreign policy positions (which he routinely distorts).

His decision at the height of the Windrush scandal to declare he had far more in common with Amber Rudd, presiding over a regime of racist deportations, than with Diane Abbott, as she led the charge against them in Parliament, was of a piece with frequent pro-Tory interventions in the Commons.

His anger at Labour’s refusal to grant him special treatment during the investigation of misconduct allegations rings hollow, and his claim that Corbyn’s Labour is not a credible alternative government is poorly timed given YouGov’s finding that it has opened up a five-point lead over the Tories in the polls.

No, the party has no reason to mourn Woodcock’s departure — though pressure should be applied on him to do the decent thing and call a by-election to find out if his constituents would rather have a Labour MP.

But we should reflect on how to limit the damage done by MPs like Woodcock.

The government is on the ropes, and the left needs unity and discipline if the crisis engulfing the Establishment is to be resolved by forcing a general election, electing a Corbyn-led Labour government and implementing its socialist programme.

That isn’t helped by a handful of Labour MPs voting with the government and against their party on Brexit motions, but the opprobrium heaped on them for doing so contrasts with the free pass given to pro-Remain MPs whose enthusiasm for a second referendum or continued membership of the single market sees them defy the whip with equal insouciance.

The Tory rebellion against May repeatedly predicted by Remain supporters melts away every time it comes to a vote, with even die-hard Europhiles like Anna Soubry quietly backing May after railing against her stance.

The Conservatives are rightly frightened of a Labour government’s potential to transform our country — they will not risk an election willingly.

The “national government” floated by Soubry, Vince Cable and others is merely another scheme to put the lid back on the simmering popular revolt expressed in both Labour’s socialist revival and the vote to leave the EU, taken against the advice of every major political party and the bulk of the corporate Establishment.

Any such government would aim at killing two birds with one stone — stopping Brexit and stopping Corbyn, as Soubry’s sneering reference to working with “sensible” Labour MPs makes clear.

It would throw away the biggest opportunity the left has had to reshape Britain in many decades.

Labour’s democracy review will look at how the party’s structures can be made more accountable, while Chris Williamson and Tosh McDonald’s democracy roadshow promotes the idea that constituency Labour parties should choose their candidate ahead of each election rather than give sitting MPs an indefinite right to stay in post.

Both merit close attention, but neither is a substitute for a mass mobilisation of working people around Labour’s socialist programme and readiness to hold MPs’ feet to the fire if they try to sabotage it.


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