Even before Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader of the Labour Party there were predictions that Labour MPs would quit rather than serve under him. They’ve continued on a weekly basis in the two-and-a-half years since, always on the basis that some ‘final straw’ was just about to fall – the Syria vote, his choice of allies, his front bench, his competence, the failure of Owen Smith’s challenge, et cetera et cetera.
But those predictions have proved to be mistaken. Barring a couple of decisions not to stand again in 2017, and a couple of notable chicken-runs to mayoral bunkers in the hope of re-emerging once the danger is passed, the Parliamentary Labour Party has proved remarkably easily cowed. Some have thrown their lot in with the newly dominant left, hoping to get ahead. Some have retreated into private criticism but public compliance. Others have decided to focus their efforts on other issues, like campaigning to overturn Brexit. All, however, have stayed in the Labour Party – committing, implicitly, to support Corbyn as Prime Minister if he wins the next election, even though they variously believe him to be useless, or even dangerous.
It’s been a pretty cowardly display, all told. And the MPs have now been put to further shame by the decision of a series of senior Labour Party staff to resign from their jobs rather than work under Jennie Formby, the new Corbynite General Secretary.
That can’t have been an easy thing to do. We’re told it’s a bit much to expect MPs to resign the Whip, as it means losing their job (eventually, probably, when the next election comes round), but here are employees of a Party willing to walk out completely, without the perks of being an MP to soften the blow or the opportunity to continue being paid as independents for several more years.
There are some signs that non-Corbynites clung on this long in Labour HQ in the hope of delaying the left’s complete takeover of the Party’s institutions, but have accepted final defeat now that the NEC and other governing seats are under the leadership’s control. That would explain their decision to wait until this particular moment before resigning. You might argue it was naive to think Corbyn could be moderated, and futile to imagine his revolution would sputter out in a few months, but at least there’s a logic to their red line, and they have been brave enough to honour it. The contrast poses an uncomfortable question for Labour’s ‘moderate’ MPs: why are you still there, after all this time?