Let us put aside for now Livingstone’s horrible remarks regarding Kevan Jones and his refusal to apologise until everyone in Westminster had a go at him over it, and even then issuing one that was half-assed at best before apologising in earnest – plenty of others have commented aptly on this already. What I want to ask is this: why was Livingstone appointed to chair (or is it co-chair? I’m still not clear on this) a defence review for the Labour Party in the first place?
Where to begin? So Labour have a shadow defence secretary in Maria Eagle already. It was her job to lead the defence review – until Livingsjtone was shoved upon her, rumour has it without being informed before it was announced. Now, Maria is pro-Trident while both Corbyn and Livingstone are anti-Trident. So the underlying political logic of Ken’s appointment is pretty naked: the defence “review” is meant to revise Labour’s policy so that it is anti-Trident. I happen to be pro-Trident (reluctantly in many respects, but pro nonetheless); however, Corbyn is the leader of the Labour Party with a huge mandate, so if that’s what he wants to do, fine. It’s the way he’s done it that I find so appalling.
First of all the sexism issue. When Corbyn announced his first cabinet, many commentators myself included had a go at Jeremy because none of the top four jobs had gone to a woman. Yes, the overall frontbench was balanced, but this was achieved in time honoured Westminster fashion: by giving women junior or even newly made up and clearly peripheral briefs. McDonnell poo pooed this notion, telling us that the idea of the four most important jobs being the top four most important jobs in the shadow cabinet was old fashioned. It’s part of the new politics, you see. Shadow Home Secretary and Shadow Parliamentary Under Secretary for Stationery and Supplies are now equals under the new regime, comrades.
So now we’re witnessing a female shadow secretary of defence being told she has to take account of a man who is not only not a shadow minister himself, but isn’t even a member of the PLP. As a result of all this, it becomes increasingly difficult to see Maria Eagle’s appointment to her current role as anything other than tokenism. A sort of, let’s give the girls a role, but if they start doing things we don’t like we’ll get our mates to pile in and sort it all out kind of a thing.
It would have been a lot more honest to have just sacked Eagle and given the job to someone Corbyn agreed with as opposed to this fudge, one which very deservedly blew up in his face almost immediately.