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Faction to challenge Labour leadership across whole range of policies

Tony BlairOn Wednesday, the results of the parliamentary party elections for backbench committees were announced. What they reveal is an organised attempt by a faction of the party to challenge Jeremy Corbyn across the whole range of policies. Debate on policy is of course encouraged and welcome, but what is less welcome is a systematic attempt to undermine the leadership of someone who only a few weeks ago received the biggest ever mandate of any party leader.

All the faction lacks is a name. Now that the era of New Labour has been pronounced dead, and being a Blairite, in the view of Progress, is “tired, dated and redolent of a time that has been and gone“, they certainly need a new description. They cannot, with a straight face, be described as “for the Common Good” – in any case you can read the full details of everything Labour for the Common Good (aka “the Resistance”) talk about here, plus I hear Chukka is actively engaged in Streatham on reinventing himself again (back on the ‘soft left’).

The answer is perhaps to call them “the 4.5%”. Eleven out of seventeen new chairs nominated Liz Kendall, and the rest include shadow cabinet refuseniks Caroline Flint (who presumably would have nominated Kendall had she not been standing for the deputy leadership at the time), Chris Leslie, the undisputed leading pro-Austerity advocate, and Shabana Mahmood. 

Many of the posts were in fact uncontested since neither the left nor anyone else organised for them. Those that were contested were won by a margin of about 2 to 1 which is perhaps not bad for the left given that fewer than 10% backed Corbyn in the leadership election. The winners of the contested positions were:

Education – Ian Austin
Foreign Affairs – Mike Gapes (nominated Kendall)
Housing and Planning – Julie Elliott (nominated Kendall)
Treasury – Chris Leslie

Since they are apparently entitled to speak from the despatch box, it is not without reason that the backbench committee chairs are now being described as the “shadow shadow cabinet”. Its remaining members had already been successful without the need for an election:

BIS – Peter Kyle (nominated Kendall)
Energy and Climate Change – Caroline Flint
Communities and Local Government – Tristram Hunt (nominated Kendall)
Culture, Media and Sport – Graham Jones
Defence – John Woodcock (nominated Kendall)
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – Barry Sheerman (nominated Kendall)
Health – Emma Reynolds (nominated Kendall)
Home Affairs – Steve McCabe
International Development – Ivan Lewis (nominated Kendall)
Justice – Shabana Mahmood
Northern Ireland – Tom Blenkinsop (nominated Kendall)
Transport – Gavin Shuker (nominated Kendall)
Work and Pensions – Stephen Timms (nominated Kendall)


  1. jeffrey davies says:

    hmm it seems these greedie lot havent a care but being now back benched are they not going to learn then its the open door held open for them to cross the floor the people are fed up with greedie mps jeff3

  2. Mervyn Hyde says:

    Democracy is nothing if MPs are the only ones in control, policies should come from the membership, MPs should carry out those policies not dictate them.

    1. Sue says:

      totally agree! I’m really sick of this. We really dont need another “liberal” party, we have one already. What the membership were clearly crying out for was a socialist party. Over the years the MPs have become a bit too big for their boots.

  3. Hazel Malcolm-Walker says:

    Let them have their moment of triumph!
    We need to play the long game. Boundaries are changing and so are re selection rules. They are exposed as: Greedy, arrogant and treacherous!
    Do you honestly think that they will still be there in 2020?
    This is like the opening scene in Beau Geste! 2020 will see the Progress/Labour First fort manned, with every man at his (defensive) post, every person (politically)dead!

  4. David Pavett says:

    The Parliamentary tradition is that MPs become more or less free agents who claim that their MP status requires them to be answerable to the whole electorate (with whom they generally organise no significant dialogue), rather than the Party that made their election possible.

    It is clear that many (probably most) Labour MPs want to hide behind this tradition but it is one that must be challenged.

    There is a clear political gap between the 60% who elected the new leader and the 90% of MPs who did not back him.

    There is only one intelligent way to resolve such a gap and that is to organise a series of discussions on key policy issues at branch and CLP level with the participation of the MP (where there is one). If the membership clearly express a view which the MP cannot agree with then, according to the number of issues and their importance, there is clearly a problem which must be addressed. Compromises are possible but if the MP is in clear opposition to what the majority of members want and is unprepared to change his/her stance then it makes perfect sense to invoke the existing Party rules and start the process of finding someone to represent the constituency who is more in accord with the members.

    This is not a general threat of de-selection but a normal process of Party democracy. It seems at the moment that many MPs are banking on the idea that Jeremy Corbyn is bound to fail in a year or two and they want to be ready to turn the clock back to something like them, for them, comfortable past when they didn’t have to think seriously about taking members views into account.

    For me the key point is that the principle aim must be wide and well-informed discussion of the policy issues. Only when it is clear that an MP is unable or unwilling to agree to to a general approach clearly supported by the majority of members should the selection process be invoked. The process should not be threatened as a first step. It should only come up at a final stage when every effort to reach an accommodation between members and their MP has failed.

    P.S. It also occurs to me that we need to start insisting on the same sort of political dialogue with Labour councillors. Many (probably most) of them do not see it as their duty to explain and discuss with members the various policies they support as councillors. That has to change to if we are to make headway with the opportunity offered by the election of Corbyn.

    1. Sandra Crawford says:

      I think that every ward should arrange a social event with all new members. The membership of the Labour Party rose hugely before and after the election of Corbyn, and the above developments threaten this. Many new members that I met at a Momentum meeting left because of Blair, so they will not stay if Corbyn suffers a coup by the Blairites.

      The new members are crucial in keeping democracy as they could turn up for meetings and vote for councillors and new Parliamentary candidates. I was at a meeting in September where only one candidate was up for a councillorship. I believe that during the Blair years, so many people left that many of those who have been councillors for years consider that they have a fiefdom and take it for granted. With this happening at the grass roots it is not surprising that the Parliamentary party are also considering their job as a fiefdom, and that they can ignore the choices of the majority because it does not fit in with the desires of the top one percent.
      As Tristram Hunt told Cambridge University students this week, they are the elite top one percent and must take control.

  5. Mick Hall says:

    Not an inspiring bunch, important not to get hot under the collar.Forget the 4.5%, for if they manage to get 5% they will call it a victory.

  6. John P Reid says:

    Matter of interest, did those who nominate Kendall actually vote for her,didn’t she just get in the ballot paper,maybe in a Donated a vote some people who were going to back her, switched to Yvette,as a any one but Jez, person straight away.

    1. Mervyn Hyde says:

      John: perhaps you had forgotten but through pressure from party members some MPs thought it best to make it look like the supported the democratic aspirations of the membership, and jumped on board at the very last minute.

      Not that it turned out as they expected though, just goes to show the depth of feeling about New Labour.

      It doesn’t look good for Ben Bradshaw with the Hilary Clinton Emails, does it?

      1. John P Reid says:

        ben bradshaw hillary clinton emails. .?

        You’re right about jumping bandwagon last minute
        Jon cruddas, pretended to support Corbyn to appease The Trots in Dagenham ,and then bravely a day after voting stopped, declared Corbyn could destroy the party, have to laugh as they’re trying to deselect him, in favour of a far lefty, and he’s pretending to be anti the EU now

        1. Mervyn Hyde says:

          Hilary Clinton’s list of Emails relating to Blair and his meetings with Bush, 1 year before they went to war in Iraq, Ben Bradshaw is mentioned.

          Just scroll down the article and read them for yourself, (the enemy within Labour’s ranks).

  7. James Martin says:

    I know some have seen this right-wing move as a threat. Personally I see it as a sign of weakness. First right up to the election result these people couldn’t believe, let alone understand, how Jeremy could win. Then when he did win by such a huge majority their instinct was to stick their heads in the sand and refuse to have anything to to with it (‘we won’t serve, we won’t serve’!). Now when they have realised that tactic has failed and everyone else just ignored them they try to get back some minor nothing titles. So what. these muppets were nothing as shadow ministers so what can they be now? Is ‘Tosser’ Tristram going to flood local government with his ‘1%’ creme de la creme? Is John ‘WMD’ Woodcock going to build his own nukes out of lego? Is Caroline ‘Chaise lounge’ Flint going to plug herself into a usb charger? These are the new nobodies desperately trying to grab a paper hat out of a cracker, let the saddo’s get on with it I say.

    1. Sue says:

      that made me smile :0) I hope you are right. New Labour did nothing for me and my disabled son who I care for full time. Apart from treat us like liars (work focussed interviews for me and fit for work tests annually for my son who apparently may receive a miracle cure!) And all that testing and checking to make sure I really couldnt get a job and that my son really is still disabled feeds into the medias stories that people like me and my son are all scroungers.

  8. Bazza says:

    Power hopefully is now with the grassroots.
    But simple news just reminds you of our cause as just read that 190 homeless people died in London last year.
    The 90% of Labour MPs may be in danger of joining the rich and powerful (and Progess et al are Neo-Liberals) as the little people of the planet.
    Even Owen Jones was coming over as a political simpleton on the New Statesmen website today arguing we should focus on other things and we can’t win on immigration.
    Poor Owen needs to read Gramsci.
    Perhaps as human beings we should be calling for an immediate amnesty to grant refugee status to all applicants in the UK and stand strongly by this.
    Democratic socialists should stand for what they believe in, as someone said, “Human beings want to be kind” and we should stand for humanity.
    The highest social plane and not bow to ‘public opinion’.
    The problem with bourgois Labour MPs is that they say what they think is popular rather than what is in their hearts.
    They could liberate themselves.
    To get where they are they had to play the game (and this is the same for politicians all over the World – bourgeois wheeling and dealing) when we really need a global politics of honest belief and humanity.
    I voted for Jeremy and support him but am from a more working class background and would perhaps do things differently.
    But Labour has elected a human being.
    You only live once and perhaps need to show you were here and tried to progress humanity.

  9. Bazza says:

    Perhaps may have been a bit harsh on Owen but I am tired of trying to appease when we should be trying to politicise.
    But yes we need to change local government settlement rules so it is once again based on poulation size and NEED – the Tories (and Lib Dems) just made it based on population size resulting in hundreds of millions of cuts to Northern Labour Councils etc. whilst some Sothern Tory Councils got more!
    So we help everyone.
    We also need to trade unionise migrant labour and they are often used to undercut wages by unscrupulous employers plus are often packed into poor accommodation like sardines.
    We need to unite all those who have to sell their labour to live (or are denied this or have retired or can’t work) and we should stand for what we believe in plus counter the reactionary right wing media.
    We all have to sell our labour to survive and if people actually talked to newcomers they would realise we all have much in common.
    Yours in solidarity!

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