Jeremy Corbyn is off to fraternise with his enemies today. I refer of course to Progress, the Labour Blairite organisation. But this is not the only group of opponents with which he is at present enjoying almost friendly relations.
For until the EU referendum is over, Conservative Remain campaigners need him. They need him to help turn Labour voters out on June 23. They need to ensure that they vote the right way (from their point of view). They may even need him, heaven help them, in the TV debates to come. For all the Tory sound and fury over the poll, it is Labour voters that may determine the result.
This means that, for a fragile month or so, Downing Street’s gloves are on, not off. The Government has already watered down its trade union legislation. On Wednesday, David Cameron dealt emolliently at Prime Minister’s Questions with a Corbyn question about an EU postal workers’ directive, as Andrew Gimson noted in his sketch for this site. Watch for an announcement of an enquiry of one kind or another into the “Battle of Orgreave” during the miners’ strike. Who wrote a Scargill-supporting book about the strike? Why, none other than Corbyn’s press secretary – Seumas Milne.
After June 23, those gloves will go back on again. But, until then, the usual back-and-forth between the Labour Whips’ Office in the Commons and the Conservative one will have an unusual significance. Corbyn talks to Rosie Winterton, Labour’s Chief Whip, who in turn talks to Mark Harper, her Conservative opposite number, who is turn talks to David Cameron. That’s a simplified version of the way the system works, but not all that far off.
Since December, Theresa May “has been considering a legal submission from the Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign”, the Guardian reported recently. Keep an eye on this pre-referendum space.