With the sacking of Hilary Benn from the Shadow Cabinet, we have reached open hostilities in the Labour party. The former Shadow Foreign Secretary has just told the Andrew Marr Show that there is ‘never an ideal time’ and that Jeremy Corbyn is a ‘good and decent man, but he is not a leader’. The Corbyn camp are hunkering down, merely thanking those who have left the Shadow Cabinet. But Labour MPs who have been preparing for this for months are now ready to go over the top. They believe that their membership has shifted and that even signed-up Corbynistas are now disappointed and horrified that Britain has voted to leave the European Union and that their party was unable to stop that. Benn echoed that, saying that there were people who had backed Corbyn last year who are now saying that it wasn’t working.
When I spoke to Shadow Cabinet members at the end of last week, some of them were nervous about a move from frontbenchers to depose the leader, fretting that if one of them resigned, the others wouldn’t join them and it would be a failed coup. Well, now there have been two departures from the Shadow Cabinet before breakfast, and it is clearly game on.
The challenge now for Labour MPs – as well as ensuring that their vote of no confidence passes – is to find one candidate who they can unite around who will defeat any Corbynite candidate in a leadership contest. This may be even harder than removing the party’s leader.