Labour’s anti-Semitism row and Theresa May’s no deal Brexit woes have had to take a back seat this morning thanks to talk of a good old fashioned Blairite coup. The Daily Express reports that 12 Labour MPs – including Chuka Umunna, Chris Leslie and Liz Kendall – are embroiled in ‘secret plot to oust Jeremy Corbyn’. In order to do this, they have – naturally – been holding secret meetings, some of which have taken place at a luxury grade II listed farmhouse complete with Aga.
The topic of discussion at the meetings is how to take back control of the party. If Labour manages to win the next election, they allegedly have a plan to rain on Jeremy Corbyn’s parade. A source tells the paper: ‘If that happens we will break away and either form a separate Labour Party within parliament or a new party. There are [Remainer] Conservative and Lib Dem MPs who are interested in joining us if we do form a new party because of Brexit.’ However, those present at the meeting have a slightly different version of events. While they don’t deny that they have been meeting, they say that it is perfectly innocent and such activities closer resemble a policy deep-dive than an anti-Corbyn coup.
So, what is going on? Although there has been talk of a new centrist party for years now and this talk never appears to go anywhere, it does feel as though something has changed in recent months. The latest anti-Semitism row means that a number of Labour MPs think they may have no choice but to go this time. One idea currently being pedalled is that a group of around 15 resign en masse if the National Executive Committee rejects calls for a second time to accept the internationally used anti-Semitism definition. The Parliamentary Labour Party will vote in September on a motion calling for IHRA to be adopted by the party. It will then be up to the NEC to decide whether to take that vote on board. If they don’t, it could provide a walk out moment.
However, with talk of an early election resurfacing again, understandably some are nervous about going independent and then swiftly facing an election. It would make re-election more difficult and the breakaway moderates could suddenly become an endangered species with just a handful clinging on. That’s why there could be more in the Express story than the attendees wish to make out. The idea of sticking around until the next election provides an opportunity to go on manouvres if Corbyn loses the election. If he wins, then there would be nothing to stop moderate MPs from choosing to ‘break away’, go independent and reduce the size of the Labour majority. That is, except courage.