It strikes me it's all about democracy, or I suppose to be more precise, democratic deficits. The Parliamentary Labour Party have just voted 142 to 40 that they have no confidence in Jeremy as their Leader. Hilary Benn might have said Jeremy was 'a decent and honourable man' but all attempts to reason with him to go quietly have failed with him in turn citing a greater democratic mandate from 400,000 or so ordinary Labour Party members.
Like most political disagreements, there is always another side to an argument and Jeremy has a point. For a party that could well be facing a general election in November though, it's clearly not good, but then one does have to wonder at the judgement of his team allowing photographers to snap a shadow cabinet meeting taking place amid a sea of empty chairs. A microphone picks up Jeremy whispering to an aid 'Seamus, not sure this is a good idea' as poor old Tom Watson sits next to him twiddling his thumbs nervously.
As I write this, we don't know who will emerge as front-runner in an inevitable leadership contest, but it could well be Tom Watson or Angela Eagle and they must be considering embarking on such a move with a very heavy heart indeed for the very survival of the Labour Party could be at stake here. Just like the referendum result, whatever the result of the leadership election, there's going to be some very sore losers indeed and to be honest I can't see reconciliation being possible, thus making a split and formation of a new party, SDP-style, a real possibility.
If Jeremy wins, and I think it's highly likely, the Labour Party will be urgently seeking some new candidates because the rebels will be without a Whip and in any event as reported here on the Huffington Post website, compulsory re-selection of candidates is likely to be introduced:-
Jeremy Corbyn Plans ‘Mandatory Reselection Of MPs’ If He Wins Fresh Leadership Mandate
Supporters of Jeremy Corbyn have warned he will impose mandatory reselection of MPs and a string of other moves to give party members more control if he successfully defeats the Commons ‘coup’ against him. HuffPost UK has been told that a string of radical measures are being planned if Corbyn is re-elected, including recall by-elections and a new ‘lock’ giving the rank and file membership a veto over any future leadership elections.
Senior Labour sources say that a fresh election victory would give him the mandate to draft an even more ‘socialist’ policy programme, but more importantly would allow him to transform party democracy. Labour MPs voted overwhelmingly for a vote of ‘no confidence’ in their party leader, and letters requesting a leadership contest were expected to be submitted to the party general secretary Iain McNicol in coming days.
But furious pro-Corbyn figures in the party say that plotting MPs will “have sleepless nights” if they fail in their bid to topple him. Private polling done by trade unions shows that support among their individual members for Corbyn is as strong as it was when he won his landslide in September 2015, and in some unions is even stronger. “We will offer the most radical leadership reform package ever,” said one insider. “Reselection, recall, a lock on leadership elections that only members can remove. We will bring it.”
Allies of Corbyn were furious at his “rude” treatment by MPs at the Parliamentary Labour Party meeting on Monday night. The grassroots Momentum movement has always said it opposes plans to impose mandatory reselection of MPs, but some within the group think that the conduct of the PLP has forced a rethink. A string of rule changes will be implemented, with the backing of the party’s ruling National Executive Committee, to effectively shift power away from Parliament and towards the rank and file members and trade unionists. A party spokesman said in the wake of the PLP meeting that Corbyn felt deeply that it was upto members to decide his future.
“He believes in the democracy of the Labour party. That’s what’s at stake,” he said.
So what could be wrong with this, it's democratic after all? Well, it rather ignores the inconvenient fact that general elections are not fought under a similarly democratic system where every vote counts. Remember how that long-standing democratic deficit stored up the largely working-class anger that was unleashed last Thursday and how it's being stoked-up further by the determination of the political class to frustrate the Brexit decision. Remember how it stored up anger in 2015 when UKIP only achieved 1 MP with 4.5 million votes? Remember that landslide victory by Margaret Thatcher when more people voted against her and finally remember how the SDP failed to gain sufficient traction because of the first-past-the-post system?
Now this historical point regarding the SDP might well prove to be extremely significant in the coming days if democracy delivers a split in the Labour Party again. I can see it being entirely appropriate and consistent with any decision arrived at from a leadership election for one disaffected group or other to decide that the stakes are so high that splitting away is the only honourable route to take. Unfortunately, it's also highly likely that such a split will lead to electoral oblivion precisely because of the refusal by the political class to accept that reform of the voting system is so obviously necessary.
I must be a very simple fellow because I just don't understand what the problem is with the concept of every vote counting - I thought it was what democracy should be about. Such a system will either endorse or not the current leader of the Labour Party when each member has one vote (there is surely a real problem here with £3 mischief-makers though?). It could allow members to endorse or de-select every Labour MP. In turn Labour MP's could decide who they had confidence in to lead them in Parliament. Finally, by a simple majority of voters, the electorate could decide if any party had a majority of MP's sufficient to form a government. What's wrong with this, or are we happy to carry on with a system that gives us perverse results and a great deal of anger from people who increasingly feel disenfranchised?