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Let’s hope fake news over Corbyn’s exit is eventually true

by Hugo Dixon | 09.02.2017

Jeremy Corbyn has dismissed rumours that he will resign as “fake news”. But the Labour leader’s position looks increasingly weak.

Over 50 MPs rebelled yesterday when he told them to vote in favour of the Article 50 bill. His tweet last night that “real fight starts now” has been mocked mercilessly on social media. After failing to campaign vigorously during the referendum and then handing Theresa May a virtual blank cheque, the leader of the opposition was now promising to fight? Come off it.

Clive Lewis, one of Corbyn’s key allies and somebody seen as a potential future Labour leader, quit the shadow cabinet over the Article 50 vote. What’s more, many of the younger, liberal internationalists who joined the party in excitement when he became leader of the opposition are now disenchanted by his limp pro-Europeanism.

If only Corbyn would quit. Britain would then have an opposition better able to hold the government to account as it charges towards a hard, destructive Brexit.

Of course, Labour doesn’t have enough MPs on its own to stop the Tories in their tracks. And, even with a new leader, the party would be split. Although MPs in London and other big cities represent constituencies that voted to Remain in the EU, others represent constituencies that voted Leave and fear UKIP breathing down their necks.

That said, almost anybody but Corbyn would be a stronger leader of the opposition. At present, May has little to fear even from driving the economy over a cliff, as it’s hard to see the voters choosing Corbyn as the next prime minister.

If there was a different Labour leader, the Tories’ calculations might start to change. They would start to fear they could lose power. If May came back from her Brexit negotiations with a bad deal or no deal at all, Labour might be able to get enough support to tell her to go back to the negotiating table. That could provoke a political crisis, leading perhaps to her resignation or a snap election.

A new Labour leader might also embrace different ways of conducting politics – for example, by being willing to form electoral pacts with other opposition parties and backing proportional representation. Lewis has been a prominent supporter of both ideas. If these became official Labour policy, the Tories’ calculations would change again as they would be more likely to lose power even if they stayed the largest party.

Let’s hope the “fake news” over Corbyn’s departure eventually turns out to be the truth.

7 Responses to “Let’s hope fake news over Corbyn’s exit is eventually true”

  • A naïve diatribe. Who does Dixon suggest? Lewis? Smith? Starmer was hailed as someone to hold the Tories to account. In this he has been pitiful. The problem has been one in long gestation, starting with Kinnock encouraging middle class MPs for working class areas and the rise of SPADS. Labour have been totally complacent in the rise of UKIP, thinking of them as a Tory problem. To a large degree, Corbyn has inherited a mess and unfortunately he didn’t work his way up the ranks as it were and gain experience. Blair removed anyone with even soft left leanings, so I am afraid the Blairites are paying the price now. You also have people who are reasonably talented like Cooper (though I was unimpressed with her performance under Miliband’s leadership) who are refusing to serve under Corbyn. There is a general dearth of talent within Labour at the moment, and I can’t see where a decent leader is going to come from. Backbenchers and the shadow cabinet in general need to be working far harder to oppose the Government – and smarter. I am not convinced that means working with the opposition though, if you remember the Ed in Alex pocket adverts. I personally think Ed would have worked okay with the SNP, but there you go – but it’s middle England they need to convince and that’s the problem.

    • You’ve said what I would have said Jackie, only much more eloquently. Although I’m a bit puzzled by Corbyn’s tactics over article 50, I think he is in an impossible position. He has n’t got the numbers to defeat the govt, so he has to try and get the best deal possible. And, of course, he has to consider the ‘natural Labour supporters’ supposedly lost by the ‘Metropolitan Elite’. My anger is directed towards the arrogant MPs who have just thrown a fit and walked away from him. They are as much the enemy as the tories.

  • Dear Hugo

    I’m sad to write what follows because I regularly read your pieces with interest, and they were extremely helpful to me as a local StrongerIN and LabourIN campaigner, but here goes!

    By making Corbyn a scapegoat for Brexit, you are letting yourself be played by the Tories and their friends in the print and broadcast media (the latter increasingly transforming itself into state broadcasting). Brexit is a disaster visited on us by the Conservative government. The Referendum was entirely about Cameron seeking to appease his own hard-right Euro-sceptics with reckless disregard of the consequences for the country, especially the people in the greatest need.

    By perpetuating the untruth that Corbyn failed to campaign vigorously for Remain, you perhaps find an outlet for your understandable frustration about the dire situation we’re in. Your hypothesis about the Tory government’s likely approach if Labour were led by someone else is fanciful. You also seem to have forgotten that the whole summer of 2016, which could have been used to develop a strong, coherent Labour response to Brexit, was wasted by the party because it plunged itself into a pointless and time-wasting internal battle.

    I live in Birmingham and am resident both of a constituency (Selly Oak) which voted narrowly to Remain, and of a city which voted Leave by a tiny margin (about 4000 votes in it; 50.4% Leave; Remain 49.6%). I bitterly regret the result and fear the economic and social consequences. Nevertheless Birmingham is a microcosm of Corbyn’s dilemma. Opinions in this overwhelmingly Labour-voting city were split 50:50% and the party has to face this reality.

    Please don’t forget that while national attention is focused on Brexit, the government is continuing with its failed austerity policy – bringing about the near extinction of public services in Birmingham and cities like it. We need a strong Labour party to speak up for the people whose lives are being ruined (I am not exaggerating; we are starting to see homeless people dying on the streets this winter in Birmingham and our adult social care services are in deep crisis). Labour cannot afford to spend any more time navel-gazing; it needs to fight both for the best deal on Brexit and to preserve the social fabric and community cohesion of our great cities.

    Best wishes

    Liz Clements

  • The truth of the matter is that Corbyn is just not a leader. A good honorable man perhaps but no leader, no initiative and apparently not much political sense. And after 30 years on the back benches where I believe he was pretty transparent, should one expect more? It is just a tragedy that he happens to be ” leader ” of the Opposition at this moment in time.

    But where is David Miliband?

    • Oh, no, no, no, NOT David Miliband. He’s a Tony Blair clone and would back the Tories wholeheartedly. He’s a millionaire and doesn’t give a damn about the “little people”!

  • The membership have voted for a leader overwhelmingly, twice!
    If the experienced members of the PLP were to get behind him, stop sulking, do their job and oppose the government as well as training up the younger less experienced MPs who are struggling in a shadow cabinet full of inexperienced but energetic new MPs, the party would get a lot further.
    The press and tv media generally are out to get Corbyn like they did Ed Miliband, and with a crowd of quislings behind him, no wonder Corbyn doesn’t look like a leader. Even the most brilliant leader (which he’s not) needs a disciplined and loyal group to lead. What he has been faced with is a hostile public riled up by the Murdoch press et al, and a large section of the PLP behaving like babies having a tantrum. And now we have “In Facts” joining in.
    We need to take aim at the Tory party and its inept handling of the Brexit process instead of at one another and the leader of the opposition whether we like him or not. There’s a job to do!.