As the attempted Labour coup appeared to have failed miserably, with its plotters admitting defeat, the actions of one MP on Wednesday encapsulated the whole, divisive campaign against Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership. One of bullying, smearing and near-hysterical desperation.
During the Labour leader’s speech on the Chilcot Inquiry in Parliament, Ian Austin, Labour MP for Dudley North, could seemingly no longer contain his disdain for Corbyn.
In an outburst which was more suited to that of a Tory backbencher, Austin not only managed to pour scorn on Corbyn’s pitch-perfect appraisal of the Iraq war and its aftermath, but simultaneously showed no respect for the families of the 179 dead servicemen and women killed in the conflict.
Austin can be clearly heard jeering “sit down and shut up”:
The MP’s wholly inappropriate sneer prompted a furious backlash on Twitter, with many commentators, Corbyn supporters and fellow parliamentarians denouncing his actions:
@IanAustinMP I oppose all abuse. Including from people like you. Forget the politics. You're just a bully.
— Owen Jones (@OwenJones84) July 6, 2016
— Gavin Newlands MP (@GavinNewlandsMP) July 6, 2016
.@IanAustinMP Heckling a man criticising a war that led to the deaths of countless Iraqi civilians? Maybe you should sit down & shut up.
— Ash Sarkar (@AyoCaesar) July 6, 2016
The MP’s actions have also sparked a petition calling for “the strongest possible action” to be taken by the party. Austin, however, was unrepentant:
Jeremy Corbyn right that we shld apologise 4 mistakes. Looking forward to his apology for calling Hamas & Hezbollah friends & supporting IRA
— Ian Austin (@IanAustinMP) July 6, 2016
This kind of obtuse, baseless and wholly unpleasant bravado has sadly come to encapsulate the very essence of the so-called “Chicken coup” against Corbyn’s leadership.
Take Tessa Jowell’s comments on alleged homophobic slurs against potential Corbyn usurper Angela Eagle. Jowell claimed that in a meeting of Eagle’s constituency Labour party (CLP) the latter:
faced homophobic abuse at that meeting. Talk to MPs all around the country, under the influence of Momentum, activists, members of parliament and their staff are facing day in, day out harassment and – in some cases – intimidation.
However, the chair of Wallasey CLP said that Eagle wasn’t even present at the meeting in question, and denied that any such abuse took place. Considering her daughter got married the next day to her longtime (female) partner, it’s probable that the Wallasey CLP chair’s word is better than Jowells.
The manipulation of Corbyn’s words by fellow MPs and the media has also been a tactic used by his denouncers.
Ruth Smeeth allegedly being subject to a verbal attack from a Momentum campaigner, at the launch of the party’s inquiry into anti-Semitism is another example. Smeeth claimed activist Marc Wadsworth used “traditional anti-Semitic slurs to attack me for being part of a ‘media conspiracy’”. As The Canary reported, while he did make an unwarranted attack on Smeeth, it was in no way anti-Semitic:
In reality, neither the Jewish faith nor talk of a conspiracy were mentioned. The activist in question – Momentum Black Connexions (MBC) media officer and the-latest.com editor Marc Wadsworth – actually said: “I saw that the Telegraph handed a copy of a press release to Ruth Smeeth MP, so you can see who’s working hand in hand.” The only obvious suggestion here was of alleged collusion between The Telegraph and Smeeth herself – who Wadsworth later claimed he didn’t even know was Jewish. But voices in the mainstream media desperate to smear Jeremy Corbyn and anyone vaguely supportive of him jumped all over Smeeth’s comments about possible anti-Semitism.
Many anti-Corbyn MPs have taken to Twitter to launch insults and derogatory comments at their elected leader and his supporters.
You sat there and watched our colleague Ruth Smeeth abused at a Labour event this morning. Your words are hollow. https://t.co/XvJQQUeFt6
— Wes Streeting MP (@wesstreeting) June 30, 2016
Nurse, nurse! Increase the medication! https://t.co/YS8Rk5SBQS
— Conor McGinn MP (@ConorMcGinn) July 4, 2016
A Labour Government delivering Labour values is far better than impotent protest.
— Chuka Umunna (@ChukaUmunna) June 28, 2016
Some Labour members of Parliament have been happily sharing smear campaigns in the press:
Labour staffers blow the lid on life inside Jeremy Corbyn's 'paranoid' HQ https://t.co/dghMfqe16o
— Phil Wilson MP (@PhilWilsonMP) July 4, 2016
— Jamie Reed (@jreedmp) July 3, 2016
Other MP’s have unwittingly been rather public in their denouncing of Jeremy Corbyn and his leadership:
But, overall, these attempts to undermine the Labour leader have failed.
As The Canary reported on Thursday, it appears that the coup-plotters have now admitted defeat:
Following a riotous couple of weeks within the Labour party, fraught with resignations and rebellions against the party leader, cold hard reality has seemingly finally sunk in. Those wishing to depose Jeremy Corbyn have realised, and admitted, that the outlook is “grim” and that Corbyn “isn’t going anywhere”.
What their collective actions have shown is a group of MPs seemingly utterly entrenched in their own, self-serving agendas – which are completely at odds with the membership of the party. It also demonstrates, at a time when the Tory government is floundering, failing to control the impact of the “Brexit”, that they are more concerned with internal fighting than they are the best interests of the electorate. That is – uniting to hold their opposition.
Furthermore, with the party’s membership on course to hit 600,000 – making it the largest left-wing party in Europe – and 75% of the 60 CLP who have passed motions on Corbyn’s leadership backing him, it would appear his support is as strong as ever. Something his enemies have gravely underestimated.
If the plotters behind the Labour coup’s plans were to make themselves look no better than weak, desperate playground bullies – going after the underdog to make them feel better about themselves – then in that case, it’s been a roaring success.
Because as an attempt to overthrow the democratically elected leader of a political party, the “Chicken coup” has so far failed. Miserably.
Sign the petition in support of Jeremy Corbyn, if you agree.