Wrangling over the shadow cabinet and whether there can be “unity” between left and right wingers looked set to dominate the Labour Party conference.
Jeremy Corbyn is likely to be overwhelmingly re-elected Labour leader. But the Labour right is already preparing for a fresh attack on Corbyn after the results are announced at the conference in Liverpool this Saturday.
Corbyn has said he is prepared to try and make peace with some of those who are out to depose him.
“I’m very keen on providing olive branches, and indeed a number of olive branches have been offered to me,” he said.
A number of Labour MPs who resigned from the shadow cabinet in an attempt to force Corbyn’s resignation have suggested they could return if he wins.
Labour right winger Dan Jarvis has also been tipped for a shadow cabinet post.
Yet others have said they will only return if the new shadow cabinet is elected by MPs and peers in the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP).
They want to be able to pack the shadow cabinet with MPs who will undermine Corbyn’s leadership at every turn.
Labour MP Lucy Powell all but confirmed this when she dismissed an alternative proposal from Corbyn that could also give party members a say.
Reports suggest that Corbyn prefers a system where a third of the shadow cabinet is chosen by the PLP, a third by the membership and a third appointed by the leader.
But Powell said this “misses the point”, adding that the PLP’s demand was about “how we can persuade people to come back to the table”.
In other words, Labour MPs will only agree to let up their attacks on Corbyn if he hands them more power.
Labour’s national executive committee was set to discuss the PLP’s proposal as Socialist Worker went to press.
Corbyn hopes that he can appease right wingers by offering them positions in his shadow cabinet once he is re-elected.
But their demands show that they are only interested in unity on their own rotten terms.
The right is determined to shift the Labour Party back to accepting austerity and bashing migrant workers’ rights.
Right wing MP Rachel Reeves argued on Monday that stopping free movement of labour should be a “red line” for Labour in Brexit negotiations.
But there were some welcome signs that Corbyn is preparing to take on some Labour MPs who helped to engineer the attempt to oust him.
Corbyn did not deny that he and his allies recently discussed plans to remove the Labour Party’s deputy leader Tom Watson and general secretary Iain McNicol. They have both led attacks on Corbyn’s left wing supporters and tried to stop many from joining the party.
A member of Corbyn’s team last week released a list of Labour MPs who have attacked him.
The right used this to attack Corbyn—but it is clearly out to get him at all costs.
Corbyn and his supporters should not be afraid to fight back.
Right target John McDonnell
Figures on the Labour right showed how interested in unity they are by launching an attack on left wing shadow chancellor John McDonnell last week.
Tony Blair’s former spin doctor Alastair Campbell attacked McDonnell on an episode of Question Time last Thursday.
Campbell told McDonnell, “You and yours are destroying the party.”
McDonnell replied by pointing out that Labour lost five million votes because of Blair’s leadership.
McDonnell was later reported to have called Campbell a “fucking arsehole” backstage.
Socialist Worker assumes he was exercising restraint in the interest of unity.
Labour leadership challenger Owen Smith launched an attack on Jeremy Corbyn and his supporters in a speech last Friday.
He said members of Labour left group Momentum were trying to “take control of the Labour Party bit by bit, seat by seat, fair and foul”.
He also said that Momentum was using Labour as a “host body, seeking to occupy it, hollow it out, until it’s outlived its usefulness, when you throw it aside like a dead husk”.
It came ahead of a Dispatches documentary on Momentum aired on Channel 4 on Monday.
The documentary claimed to show “evidence” that Momentum was organising to deselect sitting Labour MPs. Labour MPs expressed outrage at the idea that party activists might try to hold them to account.
Smith also said that the final days of the election campaign were the last chance “to save the Labour Party”. It was a change from the conciliatory tone he has previously tried to adopt.
Smith’s attack was a desperate final attempt to beat Corbyn in the election.
But the message was also that the right will continue to battle against Corbyn’s leadership—even if he is elected for a second time.
Thousands join rally in Birmingham
Jeremy Corbyn held one of his final campaign rallies in Birmingham last Saturday. Some 3,000 people rallied in support of him in the city.
Pete Jackson is an activist with Birmingham People’s Assembly.
He said people at the rally were “excited about the likelihood of him continuing as Labour leader”.
Corbyn also mentioned the national demonstration outside the Tory party conference which is set to take place in Birmingham on Sunday 2 October.
Pete, who has been helping to organise the demonstration said, “There was a lot of enthusiasm at the rally for the demo.
“Lots and lots of people took bundles of leaflets away to spread the word.”
He added that activists were working flat out to build support for the demo, with just over two weeks to go.
“We’ve leafleted the Aston Villa matches, but we’re also targeting workplaces such as the council and civil service offices. We’re trying to reach everywhere.”
The march will take place just over a week after the leadership election—and coaches will be arriving from across Britain.
It will be the first opportunity to turn the enthusiasm and radical mood generated by Corbyn’s campaign into action on the streets.