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Thursday, December 24, 2015

Who is on Corbyn's Christmas hit list?

As the hordes of shoppers swamp the supermarkets, looking for that last brussel sprout, turkey crown or jar of cranberry sauce, spare a thought for Jeremy Corbyn who, according to the Telegraph, will be locked in some Parliamentary eyrie plotting the next phase of his cunning plan to rule the Labour Party, the UK and the universe.

There in a world far, far away the Labour leader is planning a reshuffle to oust his most prominent shadow cabinet critics. The paper says that  Corbyn and his aides will spend the next fortnight working out how to replace leading internal critics with allies in a major departure from his initial conciliatory top team.

Apparently, Hilary Benn, the shadow foreign secretary, and Maria Eagle, the shadow defence secretary, are high on the target list after their public opposition to Mr Corbyn over Syrian air strikes:

Aides are infuriated that the leader's message is repeatedly contradicted by senior figures in broadcast interviews, with a source saying: "You need people out there saying the same thing."

Frustration came to a head over the vote on Syrian air strikes as Mr Corbyn – a former chair of Stop the War – tried to order his party to oppose intervention.

A stormy shadow cabinet meeting ahead of the vote saw Mr Corbyn abandon his plan to make Labour Party policy opposition to the bombing after heated exchanges with some of his top team.

However when the House of Commons voted days later it emerged a majority of Labour MPs, shadow ministers and shadow cabinet ministers backed Mr Corbyn’s stance and rejected air strikes.

Sources close to the Labour leader believe the vote proved that he represents the party – but is being blocked from making policy changes due to a handful of ardent opponents.

The conclusion means that Mr Corbyn is prepared to move away from the conciliatory shadow cabinet he announced after winning the leadership and promote left-wing allies.

We await the reshuffle with bated breath. Meanwhile, there is a very interesting article in the Financial Times by Janan Ganesh lifting the lid on Labour's moral superiority.

He argues that despite their electoral disappointment and internal fiasco, Britain’s opposition Labour party has always consoled itself with something stronger than gallows humour, their own righteousness. He says that Conservatives may win but Labour people are better people. We know this because they tell us so:

For many of them, the worst trauma of 2015 — a year that could not have been more harrowing had they piled into Volkswagen stock over the summer — was the challenge to that sense of moral supremacy by forces to their left. Scottish nationalists equated Labour with military belligerence and a craven sellout to Thatcherite England. Some defeated MPs resented this character assassination more than the loss of their seats in May’s general election.

Then it was the hard left, which surged into the party to support Jeremy Corbyn ’s leadership bid, that switched on the white heat of hostility. Any MP not sold on the least electable leader in Labour’s history, or on nuclear disarmament, or on Britain staying its hand in Syria, is smeared as a Tory in denial who perspires with bloodlust. Moderates feel browbeaten. Some fear deselection as MPs.

He says that what Labour does not deserve is sympathy:

For too long, people in the Labour mainstream connived in the style of politics that now engulfs them. They impugned the motives of Conservatives, often reading malevolence into policies even as they grudgingly copied them (there is no hatred like self-hatred). They seethe when they are called Tory because, to them, the name really does connote inherent vice.

Many of them despised Margaret Thatcher (“The point at which all snobberies meet,” as the historian John Vincent described her) in ways that scraped the outer limits of taste. They summoned the same poison for Michael Gove as education secretary in the last parliament. They cited the proliferation of food banks as incontrovertible proof of Tory malignity, knowing it was not even a useful proxy measure of deprivation. They still pretend that the National Health Service, which has been run by Conservatives for most of its life, is only ever hours away from a vindictive privatisation.

Some of this is the sheer sport of politics. Some of it is more than reciprocated by Conservative blowhards. The rest is the unique moral arrogance of the left. It slowly kills Labour by blinding the party to swing voters — people who are by definition open to the Tories. It also corroborates Sayre’s law: that the intensity of a dispute is inversely proportional to the importance of the issues at stake.

The reality of politics in a rich, modern country is that parties are squabbling over marginalia. Sullying someone’s character because he sees no role for local government in the oversight of state schools suggests a shortage of perspective.

Above all, it pollutes public life. Even Tony Blair, in 1999, was not above eliding conservatism (if not Conservatism) with racist violence and the imprisonment of Nelson Mandela. This columnist was in the room when another former leader yearned to “grind the [Tory] bastards into the dust”. The most lionised Labour politician who never led the party, postwar health secretary Aneurin Bevan, said Conservatives were “lower than vermin”.

For decades this has been going on, and for decades Labour has pretended it is normal. If the party’s mainstream members are now victimised by the same culture of invective and moral invigilation, they should smile wryly at the cosmic justice of it all and expect no pity. There is certainly none from one adviser in Downing Street. “Now they know what it is like to be Tory.”

His conclusion is particularly cutting:

Labour is not a singular moral project. It is just a political party born of sectional vested interests we call trade unions. It is not made up exclusively of heroes. It is run by the public sector upper-middle class for a working class that it increasingly struggles to understand. And it has no special claim on the truth, just impulses that veer from the noble to the myopic.

Once the party gets over itself and accepts the Conservatives on the same footing, it might start to drain the culture of moral presumption that gives rise to abusive letters and threats of deselection from hysterical activists. Until then it will continue to fry in the fat of its own sanctimony, and deserve to.

Merry Christmas Jeremy.
It's interesting that righteousness is one of the faults which Labour people accuse Liberal Democrats of exhibiting.

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