Labour Coup falls back on dishonesty, identity politics and smears
The Labour Coup just won’t die. It has become the masked killer from a b-list horror film. Lurching from one unlikely scenario to another, staunchly surviving an endless series of self-inflicted wounds, each one alone capable of felling a lesser being. Most observers knew it was all over the moment Corbyn refused to resign, if it survived that it was only by clinging to faint hope that they could keep him off the ballot. The NEC’s vote effectively put a stake through its heart. It is over.
The frantic struggling, as the traitors in the PLP and their media accomplices refuse to go quietly, is frankly undignified. The weasel-worded insinuations, and laughably obvious attempts to rig the rules, are pathetic. If the vote is anything even vaguely approaching fair, then Corbyn will win. The slimy tactics of his opponents will only drive people to the other side.
That Smith and Eagle have turned on each other demonstrates the values on display here. This isn’t about “saving Labour”, this is about grabbing power, about the basic principle that no real person of principle should ever be allowed influence, and about the preservation of a corrupt parliament where every smiling suit and skirt – from either side – is part of the same club. These are people of such low moral character that they can’t even act to preserve their own way of life, without layering in the need to polish their own gargantuan sense of self-import. Shallow egos that have gutted and cannibalized their own “movement” in its cradle.
The Guardian, or The Observer, are determined not to give up the fight. As of this morning they have an interview with Owen Smith, an article by Peter Walker, a column by Tom Watson, a polemic by Angela Eagle and some kind of… offering from Nick Cohen (I’m not sure what to call it…but reading it made me need to take a shower). They all say the same thing in slightly different words.
The message is same as it has been for 10 months – confused, ephemeral, abusive. There is no discussion of policy. There is narry a mention of political issues at all. There’s certainly no references to the LSE research into media bias against Corbyn.
Eagle’s column is especially disingenuous. She writes:
“… the party is as divided and disunited as I can remember. The current leadership has settled into a sectarian comfort zone – the effect of this has been to provoke personal attacks on MPs, a string of death and rape threats and bricks through windows.”
… neglecting to mention that the “disunity” came when the PLP deliberately plotted to remove the democratically chosen leader of the party, not through a straight leadership challenge, but through emotional blackmail and political leverage. It is the actions of her faction, sideways thinkers and sideways actors, that split the party open.
That she mentions the threats that have never been confirmed, and then proceeds to pluralise the bricks as if it were a campaign as opposed to a single incident, is absurd. There’s nothing to suggest Momentum, or any Corbyn supporter, had anything to do with the brick (singular). For all we know the “rape and death threats” are as real as the “threatening phone calls” that cancelled her Luton event, or the “homophobic abuse” that never happened. It’s perfectly possible these acts, if they are real, are being paid for by rich Labour donors in order to undermine Corbyn. It’s perfectly possible they simply didn’t happen at all.
But let’s say they did. It isn’t Corbyn, or his supporters, who have “provoked personal attacks on MPs”. Neither Corbyn nor McDonnell have collapsed into ad hominem rhetoric as much as the coup-plotters. You know what provokes people? You know what makes people angry? Being ignored. Being insulted. Being told that they don’t matter and have no power. That’s what makes people angry.
Democracy, as its core concept, is about the even distribution of influence. A democratic system cuts power into millions of tiny pieces, and hands one piece out to each person. “Here, this is your voice”, it says “you can make yourself heard”. In this way you put a halt to violence, you cap people’s frustrations by telling them that THEY have the power to change things. If you take away that influence, if you shout down their voices, if you tell people that they are wrong, that they don’t understand, that you know better than them…. then you are attempting to seize their portion of power. You are silencing their voice. You are fuelling their anger.
That’s when bricks start flying.
It is not Corbyn, or McDonnell, or Momentum or Unite that have provoked the public, it is the 172 MPs who brazenly declared war on the democratic process. It is a political class who, for years, have padded their expenses and voted for pay increases and claimed for second homes, and all the while pretended to be working for us… and then ignored our voices.
On top of all that, the idea someone who voted for the Iraq war can claim the moral high-ground because somebody threw a brick into an empty office is pretty appalling. I’m not sure how many windows got broken in Baghdad, but it was probably more than one.
Her article contains no policies except “inclusiveness”, no arguments except “I’m a gay, working class woman”. Vague patriotic slogans, self-pity, justifications and plenty of criticising Corbyn, including this beauty [my emphasis]:
Jeremy appeared to think that by appearing on television and saying he was seven out of 10 in favour of staying in Europe this would appeal to people who were not sure themselves. Instead it just gave them permission to vote Leave.
If we’ve learned anything about Angela Eagle in the last few weeks, it’s that she doesn’t believe in people having permission to vote for things. Not a great quality in an MP. We don’t need Corbyn’s permission to vote for, or against, anything. We don’t need permission at all. That’s kind of the whole point of the system. This phrase demonstrates just how in line with modern political thinking Eagle is, it reveals a core of authoritarian contempt for the electorate. It would not be out-of-place in a speech from another uncharismatic blond, running for office on the other side of the Atlantic. The “progressive left”, it seems, may have named themselves ironically.
All of that may be entirely moot, of course, because it seems Eagle is old news. Too tainted by the Iraq war, too embarrassed by her squib of a campaign launch, and frankly too atrociously poor at pubic relations herself to merit further discussion. She will soon consign herself to the dustbin of history… probably on the promise of being Smith’s Shadow Chancellor should he win the leadership. A sort of Poundland version of the deal done between Obama and Hillary Clinton in 2008. Polly Toynbee, Eagle’s lone cheerleader, has shuffled off to buy more gin and complain about twitter to anybody with the patience to listen.
Owen Smith is now where it’s at. You can tell because, not only does he get a puff-piece interview which tries to make him look ordinary and principled, he then gets an article (by Zoe Williams) about how ordinary and principled he is. Neither of them mention his efforts, while a PR rep for Pfizer, to promote the privatisation of the NHS. Both of them pretend he had no hand in the planning or execution of the coup… despite openly acknowledging this tweet from John Mann MP:
Both articles repeat Smith’s story about John McDonnell saying that he’ll split the Labour party “if that’s what it takes”, without reference to the fact that McDonnell has categorically denied he ever said any such thing. They portray Smith as a reluctant challenger. A decent man, called to action against Corbyn. Despite being an “enthusiastic convert to Corbynism”, he was compelled to run for leader because he “shared the doubts of his colleagues about the person leading them”.
What follows is an avalanche of anecdotes, all from one side, designed to make Corbyn look like a doddering incompetent. They paint a picture of man who can barely function, one wonders how Corbyn manages to dress himself, let alone be an MP for 40 years. Once again, there’s not single piece evidence any of this ever happened. This interesting nugget of information is buried at the end:
A mysterious group called Saving Labour, which declines to comment on its leadership or funding – allegedly for fear of being abused– is organising over a hundred street stalls, paying for content on Facebook and even mounting an advertising campaign in the pages of the Guardian and the Observer in order to collect voters who will oppose Corbyn.
There’s a “mysterious group” backing the anti-Corbyn movement, it has no named leader and no known sources of funding. You would think, then, that a newspaper would investigate further. You would think any journalist worth his salt would delve a little deeper. The subject is never expanded upon.
This is Saving Labour’s website. It claims to be a group of “concerned citizens” interested in “saving democracy”. That’s it. No names. No list of backers. No policies. No candidates. That such an “organisation” can be used as a source by newspapers is astounding – it follows in the recent tradition of Guardian sources on that score. Bellingcat, the “citizen journalist organisation” is actually an unemployed admin assistant with no journalistic or photographic training, and no talent for either. The “Syrian Observatory for Human Rights”, is one man living above a corner-shop in Coventry. Saving Labour? Nobody knows. It is from such sources that our “news” is produced. Why? Because they produce handy soundbites that conform to the pre-written narrative.
Just like Owen Smith.
And so we come to Nick Cohen, and his festering wound of a column, demonstrating everything wrong with a Western political establishment that long ago abandoned truth as an ideal. The Western world, and the media especially, no longer talk of morality as an abstract absolute of black and white, or even a subtle spectrum of shades of grey.
No, in the modern world, Cohen’s world, morality is an absolute in the worst possible sense. He is moral, so everything he does is moral. Morality is a condition of an adherence to the consensus. That’s Nick Cohen’s world. In that universe it’s perfectly possible for a “good person” to be pro-war, to slander people, to lie both actively and by omission.
That is modern political thought – expressed through Blair and Obama and… pretty soon… Hilary Clinton. It is a total reversal of the accepted paradigm, going back thousands of years. Where once a person was defined by their actions, now actions are defined by the people who do them.
We are good, they are bad. Hence, we do right, they do wrong.
That is the premise upon which every Nick Cohen article is based. That is the premise that allows him, here, to admit to campaigning for an illegal war which cost at least a million lives… and yet claim moral authority over anti-war protesters because they went on Iranian television.
He writes about the “insane conspiracy theories against Labour MPs”. A vague accusation, so lacking in specifics that you have to make an assumption in order to offer a refutation. Let’s assume he is referring to the claims that the coup was plotted weeks or months in advance. These are hardly insane considering the Telegraph printed a story about the coup 10 days before it happened, that Angela Eagle’s leadership website was registered 2 days before she resigned, and John Mann was approached about backing Owen Smith for leader 6 months ago. Not forgetting all the ties to Portland Communication.
Again we see the total disregard for truth, or evidence, or reason. The same attitude marks Western coverage of Ukraine, of Syria, and of Brexit. The attitude that you can lie something into existence, and deny a fact until it goes away. It is the attitude of people who believe, as Karl Rove said:
We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality.”
I have written about the modern media’s struggle to enforce fake reality on a world in which they are increasingly obsolete. It is a struggle, much like the Corbyn coup, which the Guardian refuses to acknowledge is over. Katherine Viner wrote a long article a few days back, in essence a 6000 word plea for money. It was headlined:
How technology disrupted the truth – Social media has swallowed the news, threatening the funding of public-interest reporting and ushering in an era when everyone has their own facts.”
The basic point, aside from “We are struggling PLEASE send us cash!”, was that the world needs “proper journalism”, because social media is unreliable and allows people “pick their own facts”. More honestly she would say social media allows people to get all the facts and make up their own minds. That the media are losing their ability to shape our certitudes.
The coverage of Corbyn is a perfect illustration of this.
This isn’t about the leader of the Labour party, this is about a political establishment panicking in the face of an important realisation: They are not in control. They thought they could control Ukraine. They thought they could control Syria. They thought they could control Corbyn. They thought they could control Brexit. One by one the small plans have twisted and corrupted and become unrecognisable, the grander scheme – if a coherent one ever truly existed – has been scattered to the winds. The world is refusing to cooperate, and all they can do is carry on repeating lines from an increasingly irrelevant script.
What we have here is more than just an attempted, domestic coup. What we have here is microcosm of a political and media establishment that is slowly going insane. What we have here is their last recourse, their attempt to control reality by equal measures of fear, denial, abuse and dishonesty. And what we have here, perhaps reassuringly, is an abject failure.