The right wing coup to replace Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party remains dangerous but now runs up against the undeniable truth that the dissident members of the Parliamentary Labour Party are out of touch with both party and people.
You have to marvel at the tactical ineptitude of coup plotters that – in the week in which Chilcot reports – presents as their candidate for leader an MP who backed Blair and Bush and voted for both the Iraq war and a decade later the bombing of Syria.
Angela’s Eagle’s bid for leadership has been delayed more often than a Virgin train but now appears to on for Monday, just as the people who will vote in the leadership election will be reading of Corbyn’s ecstatic welcome at the Durham Miners’ Gala and a week before he will be feted at the Tolpuddle Festival.
The electorate is currently swelling by approximately 50,000 new Labour Party members each week and it doesn’t seem likely that very many are joining to displace Corbyn and support the dissidents.
Someone called Smith, apparently a Welsh Labour MP, was reported to be a candidate, presumably on the basis that he was not an MP when the Iraq war was launched. He now appears to be rebranding himself as a conciliator in Labour’s internal divisions. We will not hear much more of him, I suspect.
Deputy party leader Tom Watson – another Blairite who was around at the time and voted for the war – has also cast himself as conciliator and this week brokered talks between a group of union leaders, Corbyn’s team and the PLP.
The idea was to get the union leaders to pressure Corbyn into resigning.
The legs came of this effort with spectacular results over the weekend when firstly the leaders of the GMB and Unison took to the Durham stage to proclaim support for Corbyn just as Watson announced the talks were off.
But there is more to this than meets the eye.
Watson, who presents himself as close to the unions, especially the engineering union that is now part of Unite, appears to have abandoned this role and seems to be acting in concert with the coup plotters.
Unite’s general secretary Len McCluskey has issued a statement which, in essence, speaks of a betrayal of trust.
This is what he says:
I am dismayed at the statement issued by Tom Watson announcing his withdrawal from talks aimed at resolving the crisis in the Labour Party.
Extraordinarily I received no notice of this statement before it was issued. I had made arrangements for a meeting of trade union leaders, Tom Watson and representatives of the PLP and the Party Leader for tomorrow, arrangements requested by Tom Watson and his colleagues, specifically for Mr Watson’s convenience.
In that context, when the possibility of a workable plan had never seemed closer, Tom Watson’s actions today can only look like an act of sabotage fraught with peril for the future of the Labour Party.
I must clarify one point in Tom Watson’s statement – I made it absolutely clear from the outset of these discussions that Jeremy Corbyn’s resignation as the Leader was not on the agenda. Mr Watson knew that, and it is entirely wrong to suggest that any public statement by Jeremy represented any change in the situation. This is a deeply disingenuous manoeuvre.
I will continue to work with trade union colleagues and others to chart a way forward, including meeting the legitimate concerns of Labour MPs. Should there have to be a leadership election, I must warn that any attempts to keep Jeremy Corbyn, elected just ten months ago with an enormous mandate, off the ballot paper by legal means risks a lasting division in the Party.
It is time for everyone to commit to a democratic and dignified procedure as the only way to avert such a disaster for working people.
The key test will be whether or not the Eagle candidature gets the full support of all those in the PLP who signed up for the no confidence vote in Jeremy Corbyn. If not there may be some chance of patching things up. Otherwise the battle for the leadership of the Labour Party will begin to encompass the struggle to reconstitute the parliamentary party.