How do you like your democracy, whipped?
It seems that, on January 19th, Jeremy Corbyn awoke feeling that he had entirely too much support from what is left of the Labour party and that his shadow cabinet was simply held together too well. He set about righting these wrongs by announcing that he will impose a three-line whip on his MPs next week, forcing them to vote in favour of triggering Article 50.
A supposed show of strength from Corbyn should be welcomed, given that his leadership has previously been characterised by a distinct lack of such conviction. However, this token display of pragmatism is taking completely the wrong shape. Had he committed himself and the Labour Party to the Remain campaign with similar force, he may not need to whip his party in the first place.
Instead Corbyn has chosen to strip his MPs and their constituents of any choice, leaving him looking like a bizarre cross between Michael Foot and Frank Underwood.
The shadow minister for early years, Tulip Siddiq, and shadow secretary for Wales, Jo Stevens, were the first to get up from the frontbench following the decision, with Siddiq writing “I feel that the most effective way for me to counter Theresa May’s hard Brexit is from the back benches”. Both MPs cited, above all, the views held in their constituencies as the reason behind their resignations. It begs the question, how will the Labour leader reconcile the beliefs of his own constituents given that over 75% of them voted to remain in the European Union?
Corbyn is no stranger to the party whip, having defied it an impressive 428 times. Nonetheless he now finds himself on an increasingly lonely front bench in the ironic position of being the one doing the whipping.
In an effort to show that he is grown up enough to accept the referendum result, Jeremy Corbyn has driven a wedge into the centre of his party and alienated members of a shadow cabinet that should really be fitted with a revolving door. Would his vote alone not be evidence that he respects the wishes of little over half the voters? By forcefully supplementing it with that of his party he undermines their ability to properly represent their constituents.
Allowing each MP to vote independently would demonstrate the diversity of views held towards Europe within the Labour Party, as well as removing another opportunity for his critics to defy him. Ultimately, it would not have even affected the result, due to a Conservative majority and the number of MPs who committed to their leader.
So through imposing a three line whip, Jeremy Corbyn undermines his colleagues, the views of his constituents, and the notion of democracy within his party. But, most importantly, he undermines everything for which he previously stood for.
It saddens me deeply to see the Labour Party pulled further apart for the sake of their leader’s stiff upper lip.
(Image courtesy of The Telegraph)