What if Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters were – in their own logic, at least – entirely justified in campaigning to replace moderate Labour MPs?
Since he was elected and Momentum established, there has been plenty of criticism directed at Labour’s hard left for their apparent Militant-esque plotting against Labour centrists.
The targets of these efforts invariably complain that they are Labour people too, often with decades of service to the party under their belts, and this is true as far as it goes.
But from the point of view of a Corbynite, that doesn’t matter very much.
They want a Labour Party that reflects their principles and the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) are being, very deliberately, a barrier to that.
Labour MPs control the party’s policy-making machinery – which the moderates annexed wholesale in the latest elections to the PLP’s backbench policy committees – and are the gatekeepers whom would-be leaders must win over before their name gets put to the membership.
The Labour members who so resoundingly endorsed Corbyn for the leadership were not, by any stretch of the imagination, electing a salesman for the views of the PLP. They want what he stands for.
Labour MPs are not only blocking those policies, but are publicly saying they won’t be as foolish as to allow another of Corbyn’s sort onto the ballot paper in future.
If you’re a Corbynite, it’s hard to see how you could be expected not to make a move against the PLP, no matter how long-serving and eminent its membership.
Now this isn’t to say Labour MPs are wrong: they are representatives, not delegates, and owe their party their judgement as well as their time. Their belief that the Corbynite agenda is electoral hemlock is correct.
But that isn’t going to stop the true believers from trying to outflank them, and this week saw two developments which suggest that this campaign is well underway.
Apparently the move was triggered after Maria Eagle, the Shadow Defence Secretary, appeared to side with a general who criticised her leader’s unilateralist stance.
Labour’s national executive committee (NEC) – where he normally enjoys a majority – is going to debate a rules change that will absolve an incumbent leader of the need to secure nominations from MPs and MEPs should they be challenged.
This will guarantee Corbyn a place on the ballot paper, effectively stripping the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) of the ability to depose him without the support of the membership.
A decision made at the most recent conference included MEPs in the nominating process, which raises the number needed to get on the ballot paper to 50 andmakes an exemption essential to the Left’s control of the leadership.
However, such a high threshold makes it very difficult for Corbyn to pass the red torch to someone younger and more electable without a substantially larger body of supporters in Westminster and the European Parliament.
Perhaps that’s why some critics are talking, despairingly, of his still being in post after the 2020 election.
All this is more evidence, if more were needed, of the long-term strategy of the Corbynites.
The so-called ‘new politics’, wherein the Labour leader and his shadow cabinet pursued different policy agendas, is revealed as a tactical retreat until Corbyn’s office felt in a position to start trying to re-impose central control.
Meanwhile they’re looking for rules change to hold their man in place whilst they set about trying to bolster their position in the PLP and party machinery, in order to gain control of the policy agenda and secure the succession.
There’s little use in Labour moderates whining about that. They’ve made it plain the far left will have to go through the PLP to gain control of the party. So that’s what the Corbynites will try.
Centrists have no option but to organise and fight back.