Euan McColm: Is there anyone in Labour brave enough to depose Jeremy Corbyn?

Corbyn had been expected to sack Hilary Benn. PIcture: PA
Corbyn had been expected to sack Hilary Benn. PIcture: PA
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IF YOU were on a bus, being driven by a hijacker towards a cliff, you would have two options.

You could sit back and accept your fate. You’ve had a good innings and, anyway, nobody likes to cause a scene.

Alternatively, you could try to seize back control of the bus. This mightn’t be easy. You might well fail. But at least you’d have tried.

The majority of Labour MPs currently find themselves huddled in terror on the seats of a hijacked bus. And one of them is going to have to do something before they all pitch over the cliff.

In the driving seat sits Jeremy Corbyn, a messiah for the deluded, and standing guard are those political knuckle-draggers, Ken Livingstone and John McDonnell.

The leader of the opposition has set his party on course for electoral disaster. If Corbyn is still in charge of his party in 2020, we can expect something approaching a Conservative landslide.

This bleak inevitability is understood by the majority of Labour MPs, who simply never wanted Corbyn to lead them.

The Labour leader’s reshuffle began with high drama as speculation mounted that he was to sack shadow foreign secretary Hilary Benn before turning into farce as the process dragged on for days.

As a display of dynamic leadership, Corbyn’s reshuffle was an absolute catastrophe. He looked incompetent. Increasingly, it is clear that the reason the leader of the opposition so often and so compellingly gives this impression is that he is incompetent.

The sacking of Michael Dugher – a fairly divisive figure in the parliamentary Labour Party – as cultural affairs spokesman suggested that Corbyn had decided on a little muscle flexing and nothing more.

But by the time he had replaced pro-Trident defence spokesperson Maria Eagle with Emily Thornberry and dismissed Pat McFadden as Europe spokesman for “incompetence and disloyalty”, it was clear that Corbyn had decided to set examples pour encourager les autres.

The sacking of McFadden – popular among colleagues at Westminster – was especially badly handled. Briefings suggested that McFadden had been given the heave for remarks in which he defended the West against the accusation that it is to blame for terrorist attacks.

Apparently, at some point, it occurred to one of the wing-nuts working for Corbyn that sacking a shadow minister for condemning terrorism isn’t a good look and new reasons were muttered into the ears of loitering hacks. But by then the damage was done and Prime Minister David Cameron was on his feet in the Commons, quoting McFadden’s comments, throwing them in Corbyn’s face.

A flutter of resignations of obscure junior figures was dismissed as irrelevant by Team Corbyn. If members of a right-wing clique wanted to quit then they should take care that the door didn’t clatter their arses on the way out.

Labour is a laughing stock. A once serious party is now overrun by zealots whose politics is not about effecting change but about defining themselves.

When Labour was seized by the Corbynistas, many of us laughed at the apparent logic: somehow, the Tories won a Westminster majority because Labour wasn’t left-wing enough. A move to an “Old Labour” agenda would lead to Conservative defeat in 2020.

Now, it’s clear that Corbynistas think nothing of the sort. They simply don’t care about winning elections. Piety is the name of the game and any compromise with the electorate will not be tolerated.

Corbynistas would happily sit in opposition for eternity so long as they could reassure themselves that they had right on their side. Sure, they might not be able to do any of the things they claim they want to but just think of all those Conservative ministers, ripe to be shouted at in the street or slagged off on Twitter.

Moderate Labour MPs – the majority of the parliamentary party – may not even be given the opportunity to lose their seats in the next general election. We can expect Corbynistas to want to deselect “right-wingers”. If rumours that the Labour leadership plans to formally affiliate the Momentum group – a kind of hipster-bearded reboot of the Militant Tendency for the 21st century – prove to be based in truth, then life will get even more difficult for Labour MPs who believe, based on the available evidence, that elections are won on the centre ground.

There is no choice now for Labour MPs who believe in winning elections but for one of them to make a grab for the steering wheel.

Senior figures have to rebel. And they have to be brutal.

Corbyn and his team are wildly out of step with mainstream opinion on foreign policy and defence issues. Just a few days ago, Livingstone dismissed as irrelevant the UK’s membership of Nato now that the Cold War is over (I wonder how many Corbynistas think the wrong side won that particular battle). Even the anti-nukes SNP is in favour of Nato membership.

So those are the areas that rebels should attack. They should be vocal in their thunderous condemnation of the leader and his cronies when it comes to their fitness to ensure national security.

There is no deal to be done with Corbyn and his team; no softly-softly approach will work. These are political zealots, sectarians who want to erase every trace of the pragmatism that helped haul Labour out of the pit of perpetual opposition.

A rebellion, of course, might well fail. If Corbyn were to stand again then he might be returned with a greater majority. But if moderate ­Labour MPs want their party back, sitting on their hands isn’t good enough.

Regardless of who leads, the party is chaotic and divided. The removal of Corbyn is not the answer to all of Labour’s problems, but his departure would allow it to start talking to the voters who will decide the result of the next election.

Labour MPs are now faced with a choice between certain disaster and highly probable disaster. Has anyone the courage to choose the latter and grab the steering wheel? «