Peter Mandelson, Labour Lord and former Labour MP, recently explained that “every single day” he is doing something small to undermine Jeremy Corbyn, to get rid of him as leader as soon as possible. John McDonnell, Shadow Chancellor, has now claimed that there is a new behind-the-scenes coup going on against Corbyn, with Labour politicians joining forces with Rupert Murdoch’s media.
The media actively working against Corbyn shouldn’t be a surprise considering both the nature of British media, and LSE’s research in 2015, discovering that only 11% of mainstream media articles on Corbyn presented his views without altering them. Labour’s MPs and Peers attacking him perhaps shouldn’t be surprising either after the first (overt) coup. Whether a coup is actually happening now has been contested by other MPs, but Mandelson’s comments seem to demonstrate that at least something small is present.
McDonnell heavily criticised the coup, claiming that it’s “more important to them that they regain control of the Party than it is to win elections.” The Blairite section of the party has long accused Corbyn and McDonnell of almost the same thing; wanting to be a protest part over an election-winning party. The internal war rages on.
Will these attempts to change leadership succeed? From day one the media have been extremely anti-Corbyn, and he’s faced one coup already. Rather than resigning or being forced out, the leader won a second mandate of over 300,000 votes and has strong grassroots support. It’s these supporters who have kept him in his position, and will continue to do so. If he fought the last one off so successfully, what’s stopping him from doing the same here?
Much of his support stems from what he stands for as a person, and how different he is to the stereotypical politician – there are strong feelings in his supporters against what is seen as the establishment. It therefore doesn’t take a genius to work out that figures who are believed to be very much a part of the career-politician establishment saying how much they resent him and working to undermine him is beyond unlikely to convince Corbyn’s backers that he should be replaced. Until the next general election, Corbyn isn’t going anywhere while he has his core support.
Corbyn is not a perfect leader and should have done more to work with the rest of the party. But these incessant attacks from people like Mandelson are plunging Labour even further down to an unwinnable position for the next general election. To many this might not be a bad thing because then the party can, as they see it, “get back on track”. For millions, however, yet another Conservative government will be beyond destructive. Labour will lose many more seats if this continues, giving the Tories an overwhelming majority. Perhaps some of those involved are aware of this and they’re just trying to distance themselves so that after the election they can run for Leader or aim for the shadow cabinet, being seen as a different, better direction for the party. But if Corbyn doesn’t budge, Labour needs to work together. Labour owes it to the people they are meant to represent to spend more time fighting the Tories than each other, something they are completely failing to do.
McDonnell has just announced that the leadership will now take advice from all areas of the party, to be able to unite. If Corbyn is to stay, Mandelson had better agree, and McDonnell had better be serious.
(Image courtesy of Defend Democracy Press)