DAN HODGES: The exit is open – now EVERY decent Labour MP must leave
The history books will record it as the moment Corbynism died. A week earlier, Jeremy Corbyn’s chief enforcer, John McDonnell, had demanded a loyalty oath from Jewish Labour MP Luciana Berger.
She should commit herself to her party and her leader, and all the unpleasantness she was experiencing would be ‘put to bed’, he said.
At just after 10am on Monday, McDonnell received his response. The eight-months pregnant Ms Berger rose, looked directly and calmly at her accusers through the lenses of the assembled press pack, and announced that ‘the Labour Party refuses to put my constituents and our country before party interests.
A week earlier, Jeremy Corbyn’s chief enforcer, John McDonnell (right), had demanded a loyalty oath from Jewish Labour MP Luciana Berger.
‘I cannot remain in a party that I have, today, come to the sickening conclusion is institutionally anti-Semitic’.
And in that instant she was free. Along with the six colleagues arrayed behind her. With a single statement, their living nightmare was finally over.
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This morning nobody knows what the creation of the nascent Independent Group of MPs will mean. Whether they will break the mould of British politics, or merely strike a glancing blow and spin off into oblivion. But there is clarity on what it should mean.
It should be the moment the shroud is pulled across the entire putrefying Labour corpse.
The eight-months pregnant Ms Berger rose, and announced that ‘the Labour Party refuses to put my constituents and our country before party interests’
Some people regard the Independent Group as representing an existential challenge to both of the establishment parties. Speak to its leadership team and they claim their private polling shows them taking votes equally from Labour and the Conservatives.
In Downing Street, there’s concern at the destabilising effect on an already tottering minority administration.
But be under no illusion. Despite the defection of the three Tory Amigos of Allen, Wollaston and Soubry, the Independent Group is a centre-Left creation. And if it is to have a future, it is the Labour Party, not the Conservative Party, it will have to usurp.
As it should. Because what the Independents have revealed, after only a week of existence, is the extent to which Labour can no longer be the agent of dynamic, progressive change.
One of the amazing spectacles of the past few days has been Corbyn and his supporters visibly withering as they struggled with the realisation that the new party they had long derided – and many had delivered expletive-laden entreaties for Labour moderates to join – was now a reality.
Go and look at the video hastily rushed out by Team Corbyn in the hours after the first defections. The Hero of Glastonbury looks shrunken, like Old Father Time as the clock strikes 11, rather than the leader of a radical, insurgent, movement.
The Hero of Glastonbury looks shrunken, like Old Father Time as the clock strikes 11, rather than the leader of a radical, insurgent, movement
Understandably. Because he knows he has finally been found out. That his agenda – packaged as a transformative rejection of the old politics – was really never anything more than a regression to the hard-Left machine socialism of the 1970s.
But it’s not just Corbynism that has been exposed. It is the whole Labour brand. We have heard much over the past few days from those Labour MPs who have opted to stay behind. Time and again we have heard the same phrase – ‘I was born into this party, and I will die in it.’
But this bombastic defiance comes from men and women in their 40s and 50s. They were ‘born into’ an institution grappling with challenges like the Cold War, hyper-inflation and a crumbling, monolithic state.
And even if it was, Labour isn’t even trying to navigate it. The year is 2019. The country is weeks away from a No Deal Brexit.
The idea that half a century later this is the best vehicle to navigate our post-9/11, networked, globalised world is ludicrous.
12 votes from a Corbyn government
This week, Theresa May will be ordered to take the gamble of her political life and risk placing Jeremy Corbyn in Downing Street to prevent a No Deal Brexit. A group of Cabinet rebels will tell the Prime Minister she must back an extension of Article 50, and then face down her critics in a subsequent no confidence motion.
I’m told the Ministers have conducted a breakdown of how the House will divide, and calculated she would prevail by a wafer-thin margin of 11 or 12 votes. According to one: ‘You take out Sinn Fein, the Speakers, Fiona Onasanya who’s in jail, the seat vacated by the death of Paul Flynn, former Labour MPs Ivan Lewis and John Woodcock and the Independent Group members. The threshold to win is 312 or 313. With the DUP she’s got 324.’
A dozen votes from a Corbyn government. This morning, Britain really is a nation on the brink.
And even if it was, Labour isn’t even trying to navigate it. The year is 2019. The country is weeks away from a No Deal Brexit. And what have members of the official Opposition been doing? Going to war with each other over whether to readmit Derek Hatton to their ranks. Which simply underlines a further truth.
The battle for Labour’s soul is a battle for Labour’s heritage. Which faction is the rightful heir to Hardie, Attlee, or Bevan. The party’s warring tribes aren’t fighting over who controls the future. They’re ripping each other to pieces over who owns the past.
As last week has shown, change is produced by action. Not a litany of excuses for inaction. Whatever your view on Brexit, it will shape our nation for our lifetime. Whatever your view on Trump, he is shattering the traditional political consensus. And yet all the Left can do is stand and watch and bicker about who runs the railways.
‘But our values are timeless,’ Labour’s terracotta soldiers proclaim. Values? This is the party that is currently the subject of investigation by the Metropolitan Police over a dozen ‘credible’ threats against its own Jewish MPs by its own members. And which, on receipt of those threats, didn’t even bother to inform the MPs they had been received.
Whatever your view on Brexit, it will shape our nation for our lifetime. Whatever your view on Trump, he is shattering the traditional political consensus.
And yet still people hesitate. Still they prevaricate. Even though the escape tunnel has been dug for them. How much longer do the rest of the Labour moderates intend to stand frozen and trembling at its entrance? ‘We need to stay and fight,’ they protest. No. You need to leave and fight.
Look at Corbyn and McDonnell and their army of apologists. And look at the new-found fear in their eyes.
‘But people need the Labour Party,’ they proclaim. No. They need a bold, progressive, political alternative. And that will not be provided by politicians scared of their own shadows.
Look at Corbyn and McDonnell and their army of apologists. And look at the new-found fear in their eyes
‘But we will open the door to another Tory government,’ they plead. Then open your own door. Join your Independent Group colleagues and help them make their project work.
And stop trying to blackmail the British people by demanding ‘let us persecute the Jews, or the family on Universal Credit gets it’.
The Independent Group may be doomed to failure. Though the early polls tell a different story. ‘This is going to work,’ a Labour MP who has not yet declared for the group told me last week.
But even it does not, what is the alternative? What is the plan? How much longer are Labour MPs and activists going to cram themselves into sweaty conference centres, belt out their condemnation of flinching cowards and sneering traitors, and convince themselves they are changing the world.
Hardie is dead. Attlee is dead. Bevan is dead. Now is the moment to lay Labour’s ghosts to rest. To put their old party out of its misery. And for Labour’s remaining moderates to join their colleagues in making their own history.
Independent Group defector Joan Ryan has been revealing the lengths she had to go to in her efforts to get Jeremy Corbyn to address Labour’s anti-Semitism problem. ‘As chair of Labour Friends of Israel, I used to get at least one or two meetings a year with the leader,’ she tells me. ‘But Jeremy would schedule a meeting, then cancel. He cancelled every time. So in the end I literally had to hide in an alcove in one of the corridors, and jump out on him.’ Now she’s jumped all the way out of the Labour Party. And who can blame her?
Chipping Barnet Tories have organised an interesting guest speaker for next month’s constituency social – the DUP’s straight-talking Brexit spokesman Sammy Wilson. ‘This is just what Anna Soubry was talking about,’ a disgruntled local member fumes to me. But a Tory backbencher has a more sanguine view. ‘They’re charging £20 a head, so at least we’ll finally start to get some of that £2 billion sweetener back.’ There’ll be no surrender in Chipping Barnet.
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