David Cameron gambled on his ability to win another referendum and lost and the old guard of the Labour shadow cabinet are coming out in sympathy for his loss. The mass resignations plus the sacking of Hilary Benn for organizing them, are apparently because those who never liked the party membership electing Jeremy Corbyn as leader think that he must go in case there is a general election called by an in-coming new prime minister. This is a baffling move from an electoral viewpoint as Labour would have an in-built advantage in having a leader in post for a year, as opposed to a new Conservative leader looking for a new mandate. This is especially the case as much of the Conservative Party's resurgence was based on the promise to hold the In Out referendum, which Cameron lost. Those resigning shadow cabinet members claim that it is because Corbyn is incapable of winning a general election, despite opinion polls placing Labour close to the Conservatives. This leaves the impression that the old guard are not worried for their careers because Corbyn might lose a general election, but fear that their side of the party could be ruined for a generation by a Corbyn victory.
This attempted coup is happening in the wake of the electorate voting by a narrow margin to leave the European Union and a major complaint is that Corbyn failed to win over more Labour voters to the remain cause. That juxtaposition of positions sounds like an admission that the move against Corbyn did not happen earlier because he was deemed useful in winning traditional Labour voters over to the remain side in the referendum. Yet the analysis of these rebels appears to bear no semblance to the reality of how the referendum was lost. Areas that voted for leave in England and Wales were generally those areas left behind in recent economic progress. The plotters were right to judge that they are the sort of Labour voters more likely to listen to Corbyn than Hilary Benn, but their coup has no logic as those voters are still more likely to listen to Corbyn.
After the Scottish Nationalist Party narrowly failed to win the 2014 independence referendum they regrouped and kept those newly brought into the electoral process to aid them in a virtual clean sweep at the 2015 general election. The key aim for Labour should be to persuade working class leave voters that they should remain engaged in the electoral process and help to vote in a Labour government. That is a really scary prospect for New Labour's old guard. The professional classes took over the labour movement's party on the basis that most working class people do not vote. If the European Union referendum has indeed energized a new generation of working class voters they may well expect to take back ownership of the Labour Party and leave the old guard to leave and set up a new SDP.
Corbyn is not an establishment politician in an anti-establishment and anti-politician era. That is what really scares the old guard and led to this attempted coup. The problem they face is that Jeremy Corbyn is eminently electable as the next Labour prime minister.
© Mercia McMahon. All rights reserved