Most Labour moderates have jumped all over Rosie Winterton’s sacking as Corbyn at his worst, but I disagree. She and Corbyn clearly didn’t see eye to eye, and I’ve always said that the leader of any political party needs to feel totally confident their chief whip is on board. Besides, he has replaced her with Nick Brown, hardly the most divisive character in the PLP to put it very mildly. He’s a good choice, has plenty of experience of the role and will just get on with it in the most straightforward manner available to him.
It is other areas of the reshuffle that need discussion. Coming back to the criticisms from the moderate wing of the Labour parliamentary party (calling 80% of it a wing is a bit ridiculous, but I suppose we do live in ridiculous times), the critique of Corbyn picking mostly London based people to the available jobs was indeed a little rich given MPs from other parts of the country had refused to serve, leaving Corbyn little choice in the matter. However, the fact that it is London MPs who stand with him while the MPs sat in seats outside of the capital chose to not be part of the Corbyn experiment is not coincidental. Labour could, after the next general election, become a London only party – or very close to one anyhow.
Part of the reason London MPs are more likely to be Corbynites has partly to do with Corbyn being a London MP and having close relationships with those whose seats sit near his constituency. But a lot more of it has to do with the fact that MPs in certain parts of London can freely go with the Corbyn tide knowing it does not greatly affect their ability to hold their seat. London Labour MPs are far less likely to face the total disconnect between their CLP meetings and what they hear on the doorstep, as is happening to Labour MPs in pretty much any part of the country outside of the M25.
Some have jumped on the fact that all four of the top jobs within the Conservative Party are stocked with MPs whose constituencies are in the South East of England. For a start, particularly for the purposes of this conversation, there is a big difference between the South East and London (if you doubt me here, imagine how different going door to door to campaign for remaining in the EU would have been in Hastings as compared to Islington). But even if all of the top members of the cabinet had seats inside Zone 2, this would be a mere curiosity. The fact that it has happened within Labour is meaningful because it is demonstrative of how far the leadership of the party has drifted away from its former heartlands: Scotland, the north of England, Wales. It is instead trying to entrench itself within an electorate who may not be as open to its message as Corbyn and McDonnell think it will be, particularly when members of it are alone with a pencil and a ballot in front of them.
A London only Labour party would have 50 or maybe 60 seats at the very, very most. That’s why this reshuffle should give Labour supporters and members something to think about.