The centrist faction in the Labour Party has been pretty quiet since the snap election, with most MPs who opposed Jeremy Corbyn trying to focus either on Brexit or local issues and avoiding confrontations with the leadership at all costs. But today’s news from Haringey suggests that this isn’t likely to hold. The council’s leader Claire Kober has quit after almost a decade in charge, blaming ‘sexism’ and ‘bullying’ from Momentum members who have been campaigning against a regeneration plan that they are ideologically opposed to.
Kober is also furious with the Labour’s National Executive Committee for trying to interfere in local democracy too, after it instructed Haringey Council to abandon the regeneration plan, known as the Haringey Development Vehicle. Jeremy Corbyn has opposed this plan, and is also opposed to public private partnerships more generally.
She has now announced she will step down at the local elections in May, which raises questions afresh for centrist politicians in other branches of the Labour Party, including MPs. Many of them are happier now they aren’t fighting the Corbynites – although interestingly one of their methods of distraction seems to be doing other non-political things, such as learning new languages, which a number of bored backbenchers have mentioned to me as an option for keeping them busy. But many of them are also fretting that they aren’t currently able to make the most of their skills to do the best sort of public service they can at the moment: they will never return to the Labour frontbencher under Corbyn, and they’re unlikely to curry much favour with whoever eventually replaces him as Labour leader, either.
Which is presumably why Dan Jarvis has decided he is going to follow in the footsteps of Andy Burnham and Steve Rotheram and run for the Sheffield City Region mayoralty instead. When I interviewed Burnham on Radio 4’s Week in Westminster on Saturday, the Mayor of Greater Manchester was full of zeal about the things he could actually achieve in his post, rather than miserably moping about Parliament trying to campaign for certain things, as he once did and as many of his colleagues are now doing.
The problem is that there aren’t enough metro mayor posts out there to subsume all the Labour backbenchers who’ve decided that they’re unlikely to have a Labour leadership or party structure that supports their kind of politics any time soon. So the question is whether those MPs become the sort of backbencher that Jeremy Corbyn once enjoyed being – semi-independent when it came to voting but officially Labour when it came to the party whips calling up to check that he was going to rebel – or whether they want to try something else, whether within Parliament or outside. Currently, they don’t seem to know what to do. They are thus at risk of leaving themselves sitting ducks for a Haringey-style row involving deselections.