This weekend has proved as dramatic for the Labour party as 23 June was for the country as a whole. And among the chaos one truth has become crystal clear: the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) is ruthlessly exploiting the shock of Brexit to achieve its longstanding dream of toppling Jeremy Corbyn.
On 25 June The Observer reported that the Shadow Foreign Secretary Hilary Benn spent the weekend calling fellow Labour MPs. His reason for doing so was to ask if they would support him in calling for Corbyn’s resignation. He also wanted them to resign en masse if Corbyn refused to do so.
This is not a surprising move from Benn. He made his desire for leadership abundantly clear in December, when he made a rousing speech in parliament championing UK airstrikes in Syria. His position on this matter stood in direct opposition to Corbyn’s, but his disloyalty on the issue was tolerated.
However, Benn’s antics this weekend were obviously a step too far for Corbyn. Benn was sacked from the cabinet via a phone call with Corbyn in the early hours of Sunday morning. A Labour spokesperson explained his reasons:
Hilary Benn was sacked because Jeremy’s lost confidence in him. Corbyn rang Benn at 12.50am and following that conversation he sacked him
Benn released a statement a few hours after his dismissal saying:
It has now become clear that there is widespread concern among Labour MPs and in the shadow cabinet about Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of our party. In particular, there is no confidence in our ability to win the next election, which may come much sooner than expected, if Jeremy continues as leader.
Following Benn’s sacking, Shadow Health Secretary Heidi Alexander resigned. Her resignation letter has been leaked to the media so they can report on the shadow cabinet’s rebellion against its leader in its full glory.
Corbyn is already facing a challenge from his PLP after veteran Labour MP Margaret Hodge and Ann Coffey submitted a motion for a vote of no confidence in him. And ‘impartial’ commentators like the BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg have suggested that many more Labour MPs plan to take action:
Just been told half the shadow cabinet to resign this morning
— Laura Kuenssberg (@bbclaurak) June 26, 2016
This coup attempt is being justified by the Labour MPs who have spoken up so far as a response to Corbyn’s weak campaigning for Remain in the EU referendum. But as we reported previously Corbyn was vocal during the referendum campaign, but his comments went largely unreported in the media. And as John McDonnell pointed out on the Sunday Politics show, Benn was the figure in charge of the Remain campaign for the Labour party in parliament. So if there is any blame to be had, he bears a fair amount of it.
Despite this latest coup attempt, Corbyn has vowed to remain on as leader. And as my colleague Kerry-anne Mendoza recently reported, any new leadership contest would likely result in Corbyn being resoundingly reinstated by the party membership.
But this calculated attempt to exploit the instability in the country following the Brexit vote highlights what motivates some of our political respresentatives. In fact, the whole EU referendum campaign has magnified a very sad truth. While the country has been grappling with the idea of whether they believe Brussels should have any power over the country as a whole, some politicians have been calculating what power they can gain themselves from the turmoil.
Any politician doing this, whether Boris or Benn, should be deeply ashamed. And we should acknowledge frankly what this means: although they carry the title ‘public servant’ they are not capable of fulfilling that role. So let’s vote for people who can, and will, work in our interests rather than their own.
You can sign the petition of confidence in Jeremy Corbyn here.
Image via David Holt/Flickr