One advantage of being at rock bottom is that things can’t get any worse. Another week in the Labour Party has proved that this not to be the case. Two pieces of news illustrate the point.
The first is the general communication that all members have received from the Labour Party General Secretary, Iain McNicol. This states that all local Party Meetings are to be suspended until the completion of the Leadership Election, since, and I quote, “In recent months there has been a marked increase in reports of intimidation and threatening behaviour taking place at party meetings. Whilst the NEC recognises that the majority of our members hold vigorous yet collegiate meetings, the NEC has a duty of care for individuals who feel that their safety is threatened.” Look behind the careful wording and what we have is an admission that we have attracted an element whose behaviour is akin to bunch of football hooligans.
Such mindless aggression makes moderate MPs cautious but some have shown great courage. One is Thangam Debbonaire, who is the Labour MP for Bristol West. I have never met her but she serves as an example of what is at stake and why the Labour Party is worth saving.
While receiving treatment for breast cancer, Thangam Debbonaire was appointed as shadow arts and culture minister without being asked. She was only contacted six weeks later by the Labour leader’s office, who then told her the announcement had been a mistake. Later the Leader’s office told her that it was true, and that Jeremy Corbyn would be in touch. “But he didn’t ring me and continued not to ring me.” She subsequently resigned.
Anyone who is at all sympathetic to Jeremy Corbyn should read the full story at: http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/jul/18/jeremy-corbyn-labour-mp-had-to-wait-six-weeks-to-find-she-did-not-have-shadow-cabinet-role
No-one reading this story could fail to admire the sheer guts of Thangam Debbonaire in making public these exchanges. She left Twitter after one Corbyn supporter compared her time off for cancer treatment to Corbyn’s week-long holiday during the EU referendum campaign. Again to quote “If you say anything in public that could even be perceived to be a criticism of Jeremy, they pile in.”
One exception to the ‘no meetings during the Leadership Election’ rule is that an event can be held ‘solely for the purpose of making a supporting nomination in the leadership contest’. Ours in North Norfolk will be held on August 4th. In many ways it is a pointless occasion since nominations will not make the slightest difference to any candidate; all will be determined by individuals on a one-member one-vote basis Neither will any individual votes be changed – everyone attending will have already made up their mind. Weeks earlier they will have decided either to support Jeremy Corbyn or to support any other credible candidate – and Owen Smith more than meets the bill.
However Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters will insist on having the supporting nomination meeting; they love a rally and a demonstration. In fairness the North Norfolk Corbynistas don’t hurl abuse at their opponents – they merely bore with their repetitive 1980s slogans. I shall therefore attend on August 4th in what will I fear be the next skirmish in a very long civil war.