Thursday, August 11, 2016
The PLP began talking about Momentum, the Corbyn supporters' group, as though they were hired assassins or left-wing terrorists from the very start of the coup. Aghast at the huge support shown for Corbyn when more than 10,000 people gathered on Parliament Square, they tried to make those people look like loony lefties, violent thugs, or rabble. From the very first interview on the radio, they talked about calling off the dogs, as they put it, and made it sound as though Jeremy Corbyn had gathered a gang of old militant left wingers to intimidate the right wing of the party. As ordinary members, our realisation that the news media colluded with this view of the Corbyn supporters by not challenging anything the PLP said, and that the PLP had a deliberate campaign to malign the ordinary members of the party, became clear.
They used outright lies (Angela Eagle's window wasn't broken. a window in the same building was broken and that's a routine occurrence, not part of a campaign of intimidation), lies (Angela Eagle was not homophobically abused at her CLP meeting - she didn't attend) and frankly weird stuff (Joanna Baxter crying on News at One because a legal letter had been sent to the NEC and Owen Jones had texted her a perfectly benign tweet).
I'm not saying there haven't been foul things on twitter and in other places, or that people haven't trolled the PLP MPs. But it isn't one-sided, Jeremy Corbyn and members of Momentum have been mercilessly trolled. The difference is that they haven't immediately blamed the other side for not controlling their members or supporters, and haven't demanded action on internet trolling. Many of the people prosecuted for trolling and stalking members of parliament aren't a member of any party, they are mentally ill. And it was pretty rich, the PLP claiming intimidation and bullying, when they had bullied (by reports from MPs present) the democratically elected leader of the party, with the most overt personal abuse.
Every time a member of the PLP coup is interviewed, they link Momentum with a negative word or image, even though the people I've met in Momentum have been ordinary supporters of Jeremy Corbyn just like me. There are people from every walk of life in the group. Many people are aware of the untruths because they are either members of Momentum or know someone who is.
I celebrated when the court overtturned the ruling that new members of the party weren't able to vote, because I thought it was designed to disenfranchise people who had been promised on the website that they would be able to take part in the elections in the party. That shouldn't have been promised if it were not going to be delivered, and the NEC ought to be owning up to that and accepting the court's judgement.
Instead I find that Tom Watson, who is deputy leader and pretended to be loyal to Corbyn, has been instrumental in going forward with an appeal against that judgement, which will cost us a lot of money. Does it seem right that the NEC should be able to use our money to try to disenfranchise the new members who paid that money into the coffers? Especially when you consider that a majority of the members are in favour of Corbyn and want the new members to have a vote. Even those who aren't in favour of Corbyn are not in favour of the underhanded double-dealing which has been a feature of the last few months.
At the heart of this is the question of who is the Labour Party? Is it the members? Is it the MPs? or is it all levels of the hierarchy together? If the latter, then how do we resolve the problem that the PLP seem to be out of step with the membership. They seem to have an entirely dfferent view of the party and its chances of election - which for ordinary members seems to be being vandalised by the PLP!
They need to understand that Corbyn will again be elected with a landslide. They need to understand that the membership are not going to put up with being slandered and libelled at every opportunity, and that when they say negative things about Corbyn or his supporters, all they are achieving is a negative profile for the Labour Party they profess to love, in the mind of the public.
Tom Watson, who is fast becoming the least-liked member of the party, has written that young members of the party are having their arms twisted by trots. Really?! I'm a 57 year old supporter, not a trot, would never twist anyone's arm to go with anything but their conscience. I'll argue the case for Corbyn, but I wouldn't use any violence - again the violent language, designed to cement in the public's mind the image of Corbyn supporters as trots and as violent. Many young Labour supporters have written to Tom Watson to object to his language and to tell him that they were capable of deciding for themselves thank you very much.
Maybe the PLP and Tom Watson can see that they are not making much headway, and with a new party in mind have decided to damage the Labour Party as much as possible in the process, as the future competition for their new party. They couldn't have done a better job if they had tried. Before the coup Labour were three points ahead of the tories. As each day goes past they are sinking lower and lower in the polling. A name and website for Future Labour was apparently incorporated in April this year. I can only hope that they get over there and stop bothering us as soon as possible.
How on earth the PLP and Owen Smith can lecture about Unity and unifying the party when they have been the most divisive and hostile towards the membership of any group in any party that I can remember, I don't know. They think the public and the membership are stupid and biddable, is all I can suppose. I am hoping they will get their come-uppance shortly.