Privately educated. Mother of Len McCluskey’s child. Close ally of Jeremy Corbyn. Jennie Formby’s appointment as Labour general secretary is a heartwarming tale of how one woman managed to overcome all her connections to make it to the top.
More than that, it is confirmation that The Corbynite Takeover Of The Labour Party Is Now Complete (TCTOTLPINC). There seems to be another TCTOTLPINC moment every few weeks and, in all honesty, the authentic one was probably summer 2016 when Corbyn was able to cling on despite mass resignations and a vote of no confidence. That was the point Labour ceased functioning as a political party and went into the personality cult business.
But Formby’s elevation deserves to be marked. She was Corbyn’s choice for the job and Corbyn, unlike previous leaders, got his way. All the most important positions in the Labour Party are now controlled by the hard-Left. Where Tony Benn and Eric Heffer failed, equally objectionable people with less wit and charisma have prevailed.
Her views are also very much in line with the leadership. When Baroness Royall was tasked with heading an inquiry into anti-Semitism at the Oxford University Labour Club, Paul Waugh reported that Formby raised the peer’s connections to Labour Friends of Israel during an NEC meeting. Formby even noted that Royall had visited Israel. The Jewish Chronicle identified Formby as the key figure behind a vote to sever Labour’s ties with the security giant G4S over its work with Israel. Probably safe to assume Lord Sacks wouldn’t be keen on sitting down with her either.
Labour moderates are not happy but then they never are. Centrist MPs and activists acknowledge and accept that the extreme left has won two leadership elections in a row, flooded the membership rolls with likeminded comrades, and systematically taken over the internal apparatus. What they still can’t admit to themselves is what’s obvious to everyone else: Labour now belongs to the extreme left, they bought it fair and square, and they are entitled to do with it what they please.
The heavy sighs and occasional flashes of anger that issue from the backbenches find little sympathy among the membership but those on the outside are losing patience too. There are only so many times you can condemn Corbyn as an abominable break with Labour’s traditions then sit behind him every week at Prime Minister’s Questions. There is only so much tolerance for people working to put Corbyn in Downing Street while pronouncing him unfit for high office. Labour moderates are like members of the NRA complaining that no one will sign their petition for tougher background checks.
Jeremy Corbyn is the leader of the Labour Party and he’s not going anywhere. There is no campaigning for Labour that is not also campaigning for him. Every voter canvassed, every leaflet shoved through a letter box, every yappy dog evaded on a dreary Saturday morning is another hand at Corbyn’s back, another comradely nudge towards Number 10. Deep down, most moderates know this and spend much of their time developing excuses not to do the right thing. Stay for the ‘democracy review’. Stay for the mandatory re-selection debate. Stay for the next conference. Stay for your pal. Stay for SureStart and the minimum wage. Stay because the Tories are utter shits. Stay because the Corbynistas are utter shits. Stay for your granddad who went down the pit and loved Nye Bevan. Stay because there’s nowhere else to go.
Stay, but own it. At some point, as you busily help to put the most dangerous and extreme man ever to lead your party in charge of the country, you cease being a moderate and become an enabler whose heart’s not fully in it. If you find yourself in this position, if you still question whether The Corbynite Takeover Of The Labour Party Is Now Complete, there are eight words you must now contend with: ‘Jennie Formby, General Secretary of the Labour Party’.