Corbyn on the ballot: let the battle commence

Yesterday evening, as Theresa May prepared to move into 10 Downing Street and continue the Tories’ programme of austerity, privatisation, and attacks on workers and migrants, Jeremy Corbyn emerged from a tense meeting of Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC) to confirm that he would be automatically on the ballot paper in the upcoming Labour leadership contest. With hundreds of thousands of new members joining the Party over the past year because of Corbyn’s leadership, the Blairite back-stabbers are now resigned to the fact that their attempted coup has failed.

Coup crash

Corbyn’s anti-austerity, anti-war, anti-Trident programme. Before Corbyn was even elected, they were scheming in the shadowy corridors of Westminster, plotting how to remove him. The question was never if they were going to launch a coup against the democratically elected Labour leader, but when.

But as the great Scottish poet Robert Burns once said, even the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. What these out-of-touch careerist creatures failed to account for was the resistance to their shenanigans from below. Ever since Corbyn’s landslide victory last September, the Blairites have known that they could never defeat the Labour leader in an open and democratic contest. Hence the enormous pressure that was piled on Corbyn after the Brexit vote calling for him to “do the right thing” and resign.

The vile actions of the Labour right-wingers, however, provoked an equal and opposite reaction from the grassroots. Huge rallies and mass meetings erupted in towns and cities across the country. Over 100,000 joined the Party in the space of just two weeks, no doubt with the aim of defending Corbyn. The trade unions threw their support behind the Labour leader, and Corbyn remained firm and defiant in the face of the bullying and intimidation from his critics in the PLP and the wider Establishment.

After a further week of prevarication, Angela Eagle – a Blairite MP who has spent her career voting for war and cuts – threw her hat into the ring and announced her intention to challenge for the leadership. The last gasp for the Blairites was the hope of keeping Corbyn off the ballot in any leadership contest, dishonestly claiming that the rules were ambiguous about whether an incumbent leader would need to find support amongst his colleagues in the PLP – support that they know Corbyn does not have.

Despite the Labour rule book clearly stating in black and white that only “potential challengers” were required to gather the signatures of 20% of Labour MPs and MEPs, all manner of expensive legal advice and obfuscation was thrown up like dust into the eyes of the Labour membership to create confusion. This was the final hope for the Blairite plotters: if Corbyn could be bureaucratically eliminated from the contest, Eagle could be crowned and the Party reclaimed by the Right; if not, the game would be up.

Eventually the call came down to a political decision on Labour’s NEC. After hours of talks, the exclusion of Corbyn himself from proceedings, and calls for a secret ballot, the vote went Corbyn’s way – by 18-14 – and it was concluded that he would be on the ballot for the leadership election.

Let the battle commence

Having lost the vote on the NEC, the Party establishment have tried to throw one last spanner into the works by excluding around 150,000 new members from the voting in the leadership contest. Arbitrarily, the cut-off date for eligibility was set at 12th January, meaning that around 20% of members have been disenfranchised at the stroke of a pen. Those who have signed up as members since February can still vote by registering as supporters. But, equally scandalously, the fee to register as been inflated from £3, at the time of last year’s leadership election, to £25 today!

Such manoeuvres are a transparent attempt to try and keep Corbyn supporters from having a say in this election. Young people, students, and others suffering financial hardship will now be denied a voice in this contest, unable to stump up the £25 sign-up fee that is clearly aimed at filtering out low-paid Corbyn voters and letting through middle-class Blairites. Doubtless the shadowy Compliance Unit will continue to be used by the bureaucracy to remove Corbyn supporters from the membership books also.

Thousands have already taken to social media to decry this attempted vote fixing. Even Robert Peston, ITV’s political editor, was baffled by these bureaucratic decisions. “Whatever you think of Corbyn,” Peston remarked, “this looks and smells like gerrymandering by his opponents.”

Even with such blatant attempts to thwart Corbyn’s chances, the right wing know that the odds are still stacked against them. Even with a cut-off date of 12th January, that still leaves an eligible membership that is almost double the size of that prior to Corbyn’s election – and it is clear who those 200,000-or-so new members are likely to vote for. Meanwhile, it is likely that this disenfranchisement will be challenged, with over 25,000 already signing a petition calling for all full Labour Party members to be given a vote in the leadership election. Furthermore, information is already spreading like wildfire across social media telling people how they can vote in the leadership election without paying the £25 registered supporters fee, for example by joining Unite’s community membership for only 50p per week. As the old saying goes, where there’s a will there’s a way…

All this back-stabbing and bureaucratic shenanigans by the Blairites, however, is already backfiring and blowing up their faces. By openly manoeuvring against Corbyn – firstly by attempting to overthrow him; secondly by trying to keep him off the ballot; and thirdly by gerrymandering the vote – the Labour Party Establishment have revealed their real intentions and shown what a complete disregard they have for democracy and the will of the rank-and-file. Even Angela Eagle, last night on Newsnight, was forced to admit that her only aim in standing against Corbyn was to get rid of him, and that she had no positive policy ideas to offer Labour members and voters.

Knowing that the vast majority of Labour members are in no mood to vote for the re-heated version of Blairism that Eagle represents, Owen Smith – a post-Blair MP and former shadow minister for work and pensions – has also announced his intention to stand. His hope is to appeal to those who want neither the “unelectable” Corbyn, nor the warmongering Eagle. Again, however, Smith has no concrete policy suggestions to appeal to the leftward moving Labour membership, and his own left-wing credentials are dubious at best. The thousands who have joined up since Corbyn’s election last year want to see Labour fight the Tories on an anti-austerity, anti-war, anti-Trident, anti-privatisation programme, and will not settle for a pale imitation of Corbyn’s programme.

Kick out the Blairites! Kick out the Tories!

The coup plotters are now resigned to the fact that they have lost. They have thrown everything at Corbyn, including the kitchen sink, and have failed to avoid the democratic contest they know they cannot win. Nevertheless, if last year’s leadership contest and the months since are anything to go by, we can still expect a barrage of mud-slinging to commence from across the Establishment and the right-wing press, who will all close ranks in a desperate attempt to slur and slander Corbyn.

A veritable rogues gallery of Labour grandees and Blairite zombies will no doubt be wheeled out to once again reassert that Corbyn “lacks leadership qualities” and will “make Labour unelectable”. Already, John McTernan, an infamous former special advisor to Blair, has asserted (in response to the NEC’s decision to include Corbyn on the ballot that) that “today was the day the Labour Party was stabbed in the heart and killed by the Labour National Executive Committee.” “Jeremy Corbyn may have won this vote, but he has destroyed the Labour party,” McTernan hysterically stated. “This is the end of the Labour Party, nothing more or less than that.”

At the same time, all this bile and vitriol from the Blairites will only serve to further undermine their authority and alienate Labour members from the already hated traitors in the PLP.

The obvious question that follows is: what next? Recent events have made it clear to everyone that Labour is, in reality, two parties: a party of Blairisim and Westminster careerists that stands for the interests of big business; and a party of Corbyn and the bulk of the Labour membership that stands for the interests of the working class. There is no way that the former will ever accept the latter. Their motto is rule or ruin: either they have complete control over the Party and are allowed to treat it as their personal property; or they will do their utmost to sabotage the Party and ensure that a Corbyn-led Labour never wins a general election.

Already the serious mouthpieces and representatives of the Establishment are calling for Blairite MPs to split away and join up with Lib Dems and “moderate” Tories to form a new “Centre” party of British politics – that is, a party that will dutifully carry out the cuts and attacks on the working class that capitalism requires in this epoch of crisis. Following the Brexit vote, and with a new world slump on the horizon, the ruling class – now more than ever – requires a stable party that can govern “in the national interest”, i.e. implement austerity in the interests of the bosses and the bankers.

At the same time, if right-wing Labour MPs do not leave of their own volition, they might very well find themselves kicked out by a Labour grassroots who are furious at their treacherous behaviour. The question of deselection can no longer be dodged. The democratic right for the Labour rank-and-file to choose who represents their Party in Parliament must now be a central demand from Momentum and the trade unions.

Corbyn supporters in the constituencies of the 172 Blairite back-stabbers should hold these MPs to account and demand that they either unequivocally back the Labour leader and the desires of the membership or be replaced by elected representatives of the working class that will.

With the Tories now united – for the time being – around the new Prime Minister, Teresa May, it is more vital than ever that we have a Labour Party that is equally united: united around a bold socialist programme to fight against the Tories and their attacks on the working class and migrants.

Vote for Corbyn! Fight for Socialism!

Deselect the 172! For workers' MPs on a worker's wage!

Kick out the Blairites! Kick out the Tories! Kick out Capitalism!