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CHUKA UMUNNA’S demand that Jeremy Corbyn tells Labour Party members to stop putting down no-confidence motions against their MPs invites a glance to check that the calendar doesn’t read April 1.
Is this the same Chuka Umunna who has missed no opportunity since Corbyn’s election to undermine the party leader, including motions of no confidence?
And is it coincidence that Joan Ryan, Gavin Shuker and Chris Leslie, who have been stung by local party votes, are associated with the anti-Corbyn Parliamentary Labour Party fifth column?
All have reacted predictably, exhibiting both petulance and a measure of contempt for local members.
Ryan blamed “Trots, Stalinists, communists and assorted hard-left” for her defeat, Shuker referred to “a handful of people” in the party wanting to overturn his constituents’ vote of confidence in him while Leslie accused the leadership machine of orchestrating action against him.
None had the humility to accept that they might be even slightly at fault and perhaps ought to try to build bridges with the local members who hand out leaflets, knock on doors, attend public meetings and do everything required to send them to Parliament.
It ill behoves Shuker, particularly, to speak of “a handful of people” when he could find only three members to support him against 33 opponents and five abstainers.
The combined bile of Ryan, Shuker and Leslie, however, can not compare with Umunna’s reference to party members as “dogs” free to savage anti-leadership MPs or be curbed by Corbyn.
John McDonnell’s barely controlled fury at this “grotesquely offensive” characterisation reflected the feelings of many loyal party members and supporters who feel that a more robust rebuttal of the unending unjustified slurs against Corbyn and those closest to him is needed.
His direct response to Umunna to “stop throwing yourself in front of TV cameras, inventing stories and get out there and start campaigning for a Labour government” will strike a chord with many people.
Corbyn’s internal critics often voice the claim that, with the Tories in difficulties, Labour “should be 20 points ahead.”
It probably should be, given that so many Labour policies — public ownership of rail, water, energy and Royal Mail, a mass council housebuilding programme, a cap on private rents and higher taxes for the big business and the rich — are supported by the majority of voters.
What holds back voters — even though Labour is currently polling four points more than the Tories — is the image of a divided party, which has been assiduously stoked by Labour’s anti-Corbyn parliamentary elite.
These perpetual knockers see no contradiction between working to sack Corbyn and believing they are entitled to a job for life, which only the hereditary monarch enjoys in Britain these days.
Nor do the grumblers see a dichotomy between lifelong job entitlement and backing for New Labour’s “flexibility” agenda that eroded workplace safeguards, introducing job insecurity and denying employment rights for 12 months after being taken on.
Only left-wing malcontents of the stamp of McDonnell and Corbyn fought for rights from day one, which the next Labour government can be expected to bring in, since they have worked with the unions and the Institute of Employment Rights to prepare new industrial relations legislation.
What a contrast between their positive record as backbenchers and others whose sole motivation is undermining party and leader.
Those nursing an overblown sense of entitlement should rethink their position. No-confidence motions won’t be decreed from on high but by local-level foot soldiers who don’t relish being called dogs.
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