I am not a member of the Labour Party. I am, as is obvious, interested in what it does: its success or failure has had direct impact on the well-being of many people in the UK.
Over the weekend Owen Smith talked of the risk of Labour splitting because according to some reports there are MPs considering the possibility after the Labour party leadership election result in late September. And John McDonnell got angry about it, demanding that Owen Smith condemn any such talk of division despite it being very obvious that the supporters of Jeremy Corbyn can only describe anyone who does not support him as being unfit to be in the Labour Party.
McDonnell is reported to have said:
Smith must do more to denounce those seeking a split or risk becoming the “disunity candidate”
and that Smith:
needed to be much clearer that this was not an option
Which is slightly surreal, because the fact that McDonnell is discussing it shows that he realises it is an option. Smith's approach, that recognises the risk and wants to do something about it is very obviously more realistic than the denial that John McDonnell seems to be suffering.
I should add that I, at least, am glad that the option is beng considered. This is a welcome indication that for once someone in UK politics might be considering that planning for the possible consequences of an action is a desirable thing to do. Whatever John McDonnell says it would be recklessly irresponsible of those MPs who do not back Corbyn and think it will be impossible to serve in a shadow cabinet with him to simply sit in their hands now and wait, unthinkingly, to see what happens in the event Corbyn is re-elected.
I happen to know that this is what MsConnell did last summer: whilst Corbyn was marching round the country winning support last summer McDonnell was on holiday for weeks with his phone off: it was one reason why there was so little preparation for a Corbyn victory and so much confusion when it happened. John may think that the way to do things. I sincerely hope others don't.
And McDonnell, the man doing more of the splitting in Labour than anyone else, really does need to do his own contingency planning. If he really thinks that in the event of Corbyn winning 172 MPs are simply going to sit on their hands for 44 months behind a front bench that they do not support and which clearly loathes them whilst they are de-selected from ther seats then he must be living in cloud cuckoo land.
The MPs in question were elected by their constituents to undertake a role, whether in government or opposition, in parliament. I sincerely hope they recall that and appreciate that it will be their duty to form an opposition in the event that Corbyn wins. The country needs an effective opposition, and Corbyn cannot supply it, so they have to act.
I make clear that this does not necessarily mean that I will like or support
all the policy positions they will adopt and I will be more than happy to say so if that is the case. But this does create the possibility of there being a Porgressive Alliance that might really transform UK politics for the very large number who feel utterly unrepresented now. And if that was to be the outcome - as electorally I suspect those MPs would realise it would need to be - in anticipation of which they should be looking to form a coalition in opposition before the next general election - then I think the prospect of something that could really transform UK politics exists, whether John McDonnell likes it or not.