In the end it was by no means the “night of the long knives” that the national press were predicting. However, the reshuffle of Labour’s shadow cabinet in Westminster was critical enough to enrage the Blairites who infest the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP).
Shadow foreign secretary Hilary Benn kept his job, but only on the understanding that he will not oppose Corbyn in carrying out his foreign office duties in the future - a pledge that he will surely break, given his enthusiasm in voting for bombing in Syria. Maria Eagle, who publically supports Trident, was moved from her position in defence, but remains in the shadow cabinet.
Two shadow spokespersons, however, were sacked: Michael Dugher from culture and Pat McFadden from Europe. Dugher had routinely attacked Corbyn and the Left during his time in office. So too had Pat McFadden, who has a history as a henchman for Blair during his time as Labour leader and prime minister. Given the bleating of the right-wing, it is worth remembering that McFadden’s main role under Blair was to seek control over the party machine and the various ministers and advisers and ensure that they all remained loyal to the prime minister’s office. For this he was later rewarded with a safe Labour seat.
Nether Dugher and McFadden could be regarded as big-name losses, and some of the other expected changes, including a tightening up of the shadow whips’ office, did not happen in the end. It was reported that between 10 and 11 shadow cabinet members had threatened to resign had the reshuffle been more intensive.
In the end, three minor shadow ministers did resign over the course of Wednesday, in what was clearly a co-ordinated effort to undermine Corbyn. The BBC reporters were trying to ramp this up as a “major crisis” for Corbyn and they even let slip that the Tories were in on it after reporting that Cameron had approached a BBC crew at Westminster to find out how it was going.
The Blairites anger reflects the fact that their grip over the critical areas of defence and foreign policy has been loosened. These are the two sections of government (along with the economy, of course) where both the Tories and New Labour have always shown total loyalty to the aims of imperialism and capitalism. The fact that the new shadow spokesperson for defence is critical of Trident is unacceptable to the establishment. They also fear for Benn’s position, having built him up as the next saviour of the right-wing; a possible alternative to replace the sunken ships of Umunna, Kendall, etc.
Corbyn's supporters within the PLP have bent over backwards to placate and reassure right-wing Labour MPs that the shadow cabinet can - and will - represent a "broad church". But the Labour leader's aim to create a relatively united front bench is not what these Blairites want. They want an ongoing process of chaos to undermine Corbyn as much as possible, whatever the cost. They would rather Labour lost the upcoming elections in May, and indeed the next general election itself, than see Corbyn succeed.
These people will only be encouraged by the modesty and mildness of this reshuffle. The battle for the PLP has only been deferred. What is needed is a wholesale shakeout of Labour’s ranks at Westminster. Those careerist MPs, many of whom were parachuted into seats by the New Labour machine, must be held to account. They should have their job for the life of this parliament and no more. If they are not willing to help fight for the ideas that Corbyn was overwhelmingly elected on, then they must be replaced as candidates at the next election with people who will act in the interests of our class, not those of capitalism and careerism.
Our demands are simple:
- For worker MPs on a workers wage!
- For mandatory reselection!
- Kick out the Blairite MPs! Fight for socialism!
The Corbyn revolution has transformed the political landscape in Britain. More and more people are seeing the need to take this process throughout the whole labour movement. The ongoing treachery of the Blairite cabal, which is tied to the establishment by a thousand threads, and which dominates the Parliamentary Labour Party, is becoming clearer day by day. Action must be taken so that Labour fights the Tories and the capitalism system, armed with bold socialist policies and MPs prepared to carry them out.