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Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Is Labour about to embark on a civil war?

The Telegraph columnist, Dan Hodges may have rejoined the Labour Party but that has not blunted his ability to hand some home truths to the party. And in yesterday's column he takes no prisoners.

A Labour MP told me recently that they are confident that Jeremy Corbyn will not win the leadership contest next weekend. Dan Hodges suggests that they are deluded and may well advise that that particular MP  to watch their back.

He says that when Jeremy Corbyn becomes Labour leader on Saturday, his party will have stepped into the void:

How deep and long the drop will be is equally uncertain. All that anyone knows for sure is the direction of travel: downwards.

So Labour MPs are trying to reassure themselves. Perhaps things won’t be as bad as they’d feared. Maybe Corbyn will reach out. Moderate his rhetoric and his polices. Even if he doesn’t, perhaps he won’t be around for long: 18 months could well be enough. 

Those Labour MPs are deluding themselves. It won’t be as bad as they feared. It will be worse.

Hodges suggests that Corbyn has the means to assert his authority and to ruthlessness weed out dissent:

The Corbyn ascendancy has been many years in the making. The coordinated attack on the Blairite think tank Progress, and the targeted punishment beatings of Blairite and Brownite shadow cabinet ministers. The establishment of the independent Left-wing think-tank “Class”. The formation of the “People’s Assembly” anti-austerity coalition. These interventions weren’t part of a long-term master plan to secure the leadership for Corbyn. But they were part of a well crafted strategy for increasing the Left’s influence within Labour. A strategy that has succeeded beyond their wildest dreams.

Which is why Labour MPs thinking Corbyn’s leadership will simply fade away like a bad dream are in for a nasty shock. The nightmare is real.

It’s true that many of Corbyn’s supporters have a tenuous grasp on reality and some none at all. But his inner-circle contains a number of hard-headed and seasoned political operatives.

Simon Fletcher, his chief of staff, delivered Ken Livingstone two mayoral victories, and ran London for the best part of a decade. As a senior adviser to Ed Miliband, it was Fletcher who designed the new voting system that is set to deliver Corbyn his against the odds victory. Another key team member is shadow minister Jon Trickett. Trickett advised Gordon Brown, and helped Brown survive and neutralise numerous assassination attempts. He also helped mastermind several of the parliamentary rebellions that helped usher Tony Blair towards an early retirement. Another ally is Andrew Murray, chief of staff at the Unite trade union and deputy president of Stop The War. Murray is the man who organised the “spontaneous” oversubscribed public gatherings that characterise Corbynmania.

Hence the threat of deselection which have being floated by some members of Corbyn’s team. Though Corbyn himself has not officially endorsed the call, he knows he doesn’t have to. The mere threat of Corbyn’s henchman turning up on their doorstep is likely to be enough to keep many Labour MPs in line. 

If Corbyn wins on Saturday we really could be in for some interesting times.
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