We must shout loud and clear about Blairite sabotage if Labour is to be successful, writes MICHELLE RYAN
TO ALL those who put themselves through Thursday night’s election coverage, I salute you. I watched until 5am. Why? Because I chose to face the bad news in drip drip fashion, rather than be overwhelmed by a tsunami of bad news in the morning.
As it ultimately transpired, Thursday’s results were nowhere near as bad as many had gleefully predicted. Predictions that were based on the national polls, which put Labour an average of 4 or 5 points behind the Tories. These polls turned out to be as accurate as they were for the 2015 general election, because the local election vote share was Labour, 31 per cent, Conservatives, 30 per cent.
You would think after such dire predictions, this would be something of a good news story for Labour. And it started off that way, thanks to John McDonnell, who was given the first shift on the BBC election programme.
Whenever Laura “I can’t hide my hatred of Corbyn” Kuenssberg insisted the results looked disastrous for Labour, based on the 2012 local election results, John calmly and reasonably insisted that a fairer comparator, in terms of judging Labour’s progress under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, was the 2015 general election, when Labour trailed the Tories by 7 percentage points. He was also the only person to make the point that Ed Miliband was into his second year of leadership in 2012, whereas Jeremy has only been leader for eight months.
My moment of the night — a clip I urge you all to seek out if you can — came when Kuenssberg, bristling with barely concealed excitement, announced that someone had passed Labour’s briefing notes for the programme to the BBC.
This led to a long sneering monologue in which she revealed the contents of the briefing notes, along with her spin on them, which was along the lines of, “Labour will focus on comparing local election results to the general election rather than the more ‘accurate’ comparator of 2012, as a way of excusing a poor performance.”
Once she had finally finished speaking, looking very pleased with herself, Huw Edwards turned to McDonnell and said: “Is that right John?” McDonnell laughingly replied: “I think I wrote those.” Kuenssberg’s expression was a picture. The wind had been well and truly knocked out of her sails. McDonnell explained the argument in the notes was not an excuse, it just made more sense. Establishment journalists really do not know how to trip up genuine un-spun politicians like McDonnell and Corbyn.
The results — apart from Scotland’s, which were predictably dire — continued to drip through as a source of unexpected reassurance that the doom-and-gloom predictions were not coming true. But the evening went downhill because of the Labour representatives on the programme. I say Labour through gritted teeth because for much of the night, they may as well have had two Conservatives on to provide analysis.
A loss of 150 to 200 seats was always going to be used to justify a leadership coup. With the losses being few and far between, coupled with some unexpectedly strong results across the country, this immediate threat was averted. And the Blairites were not happy about it.
John Mann appeared on a live feed at one point, looking bitterly disappointed with the lack of bad news. He made up for it with a rant about Labour’s “huge” anti-semitism problem, which was costing us Jewish votes up and down the country. The political commentators, the Tories and the Labour representatives, John McDonnell and Emily Thornberry aside, were as one in their whole-hearted trashing of Labour’s results in general, and Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership in particular.
The narrative the Blairites were spinning was simple but effective: “Labour should be 10 or so points in front by now, up against a government in disarray.” I could imagine Corbyn supporters’ jaws hitting the floor up and down the country, sent there by Blairite gall. If the Labour Party is a house we are trying to sell, the Blairites are the ones regaling any prospective buyers with terrifying but fabricated revelations about burglaries, subsidence, noisy neighbours and rising damp, because they don’t want the house to sell. Then when the house doesn’t sell, these saboteurs blame us for not making the house appealing enough.
If we don’t want the electorate to be put off, we have to explain to them what is really going on, which is that a small number of Labour MPs are hell-bent on damaging Corbyn’s leadership after their preferred candidate was rejected by the members.
The truth, if repeated often, will eventually feed through to the electorate, who will hopefully develop a healthy degree of cynicism whenever MPs like Jo Cox and Mann appear on their TV screens to trash Corbyn.
Negative commentary about Labour that comes from a Labour MP has far more teeth than the same commentary from the mouth of a Tory, and can inflict a lot more harm. That’s why so many members are understandably baying for deselections. But these same MPs will trawl through the TV studios to discredit Corbyn post deselection — the only difference being they will be introduced as ex-Labour MPs. The weight given to their commentary will be much the same.
Maybe it’s better to keep our enemies close, but denounce them repeatedly to remove their teeth. Once the Blairites are well known for the bitter saboteurs that they are, their bites won’t hurt a bit.