Yesterday, Labour MP Dan Jarvis gave a speech at the Demos think tank that had some of the political press in a tizzy. “Dan Jarvis sets out his vision for Labour as leadership talk mounts,” announced a Guardian headline. “Labour backbencher Dan Jarvis is to fuel rumours over his leadership ambitions by setting out his vision for winning back the electorate,” read the Daily Mail. It would seem to the casual reader that some purge against the current Labour leadership is now in motion. Is it?
Let’s look at what Jarvis actually said yesterday first.
“It’s a false choice to say we must either champion Labour’s record in government or denounce it. The truth is we should defend our achievements and learn from our mistakes. To anyone outside Westminster, that’s common sense.” Well, Dan, to anyone outside of Westminster who isn’t a Labour Party member, which admittedly is most of the people in the country – but given we’re talking about Labour leadership ambitions, the party members could present a problem.
What else did Jarvis say, something that would be a real silver bullet in terms of a coup on its way; something unavoidably anti-Corbyn in content? Nothing. Really, I’ve scoured the text. There is not one sentence to make one think that a statement put out by Dan’s office a week ago is any less relevant today:
“Dan is fully focused on the important elections in May and the EU referendum in June. Any suggestion otherwise is nonsense and an unwelcome distraction from the challenges Labour has ahead.”
Thus I think the furore created by the Jarvis speech yesterday is mostly wishful thinking: from the centre-left in the form of hope that Labour may one day soon be led by someone who isn’t a total bell-end; by the centre-right, hoping that Labour explodes into all out civil war.
A coup would be very difficult at present given the margin by which Corbyn won the leadership contest last September. The whole of the PLP are hyper-aware of this fact. That’s the truth of it.
But it is nice to dream, isn’t it? The local elections in May will be brutal for Labour, as will the Scottish and Welsh elections, and the idea that this could be the impetus for a coup against Corbyn is inviting. But if I were to lay a bet today, I would say it won’t happen, even if the elections go as badly as possible for Labour. Even if Zac Goldsmith wins.
There is still a feeling amongst Labour MPs not enamoured by Corbyn’s leadership stylings thus far (i.e. almost all of them) that they have to wait until the membership gets sick of his bungling. Looking at how monumentally terrible Corbyn has been in every conceivable way in his first six months at the helm, and how the membership seem more positive than ever about the guy, it is difficult to see what Jeremy would have to do to make the membership realise his ineptitude. So if it’s not this summer, it’s probably Corbyn until 2020. So Corbyn until 2020 it is then.