2019 05 – Diary of a Corbyn Foot Soldier

Diary of a Corbyn Foot Soldier

by Michael Murray

Dictionary definition of a foot soldier: “…a dedicated low level follower…” 

Michael Murray: murraymicha@gmail.com; Facebook: Michael Murray London 


(1) The Purdah. Or, What did the British Empire ever do for us?  

(2) Brexit: Corbyn’s long game


(1) The Purdah. Or, What did the British Empire ever do for us?

And what did the British empire ever do for us?  It gave us the PURDAH, for one thing. Puuuurrrr-daaaaah. It rolls off the tongue, doesn’t it? No, it’s not the name of another British military atrocity in India, like Amritsar, being remembered this month.  One dictionary defines purdah as “The practice in certain Muslim and Hindu societies of screening women from men or strangers, especially by means of a curtain. (The curtain bit is important.) The Glossary at Parliament.UK defines it as “The term used to describe the period between the announcement of an election and the date the election is held.” For the Civil Service it has the most relevance, in relation to how Government  business is continued in the “interregnum” between the dissolution of the old Parliament and the introduction of the new. That is, perhaps, where the word first came into use and, no doubt, while the Empire was still extant.

For the foot soldier it means a curtailment of scheduled party meetings from the 1st of May until May the thirtieth. In my constituency of Hackney North the May meeting of  the ward/branch has been cancelled and the important monthly meeting of ward delegates has been pushed back to May 30th. The latter is conditional on us delegates not conducting any business, beyond discussion of motions. The main purpose of Purdah, at local level, as far as I can see, is to disaggregate election expenses from those of other activities and events. But, it also means party members can focus their time on electioneering during the period of Purdah.

Here, in London, there are no local elections at this time, only (only!!!) the European Parliament elections. However “Hackney on Tour,” volunteering activists, travel out to marginal constituencies, to fight the good fight. Some of our readers will appreciate why I’d like to see these groups of volunteers re-named “Flying Columns.”  Something else the British Empire gave us: the Irish part of it anyway. But we’ll draw a curtain over that: a Purdah, if you will.


(2) Brexit: Corbyn’s long game

An anonymous commentator posted the following defense of Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership recently and it deserves repetition here.

“So Jeremy Corbyn will have seen off two Conservative Prime Ministers, taken away a Tory majority, defeated a Finance Bill for the first time in 41 years and help lead the largest defeat of the Government. Ever. But still some say this is not effective opposition.”

And, may I add, he may have seen off the latest overt coup attempt this week. Cast your minds back to the media images of Tom Watson “storming out” of  the NEC’s deliberations on how to present Brexit in the European Election campaigning. It was a follow-up to the election to the NEC (National Executive Committee) of at least 9 additional Corbyn supporters, whose term of office began after the September annual conference. The New Statesman commented at the time: “For the third successive election to the party’s ruling body, the official candidates of the party’s centre-left have been well-beaten by the candidates of the left.” 3rd September, 2018.

Again, Corbyn can be credited with that expansion of Labour’s Left. And what about Corbyn’s invitation to talks with the Government with the declared aim of rescuing the Brexit process?  The Marxist, terrorist sympathiser made to look like a Prime Minister in waiting?  Doesn’t that deserve some recognition?

In past entries to this “Diary of  a Corbyn foot soldier” I’ve used a metaphor of the Labour Brexit campaign, as a game of football in which Corbyn, as team captain, has excelled himself in probing the opposing team’s defences, holding it, the Tory Party, to account, exhorting his team mates to keep their shape, be disciplined, stay on side – until the time is ripe to break forward. Unfortunately, but not untypically, all of the genuine fans haven’t grasped his long term game plan and have shown their impatience in a number of ways, threatening the support base, threatening to defect to other clubs – and mutterings about the need for a change of  team manager.  But the Board, (the NEC) which a year or two ago, might have relented, faced with the growing unease of the fans, in the hour of his direst need for moral support have backed him. And by a clear majority. His Assistant Manager, seeing his chance of promotion evaporate, threw a much publicised wobbly. You read the sports columns. You know to whom I’m referring.

A clear majority of the NEC voted in favour of, effectively, staying with the broad thrust of last year’s Conference, via a conditional public vote on Brexit (conditional on the outcome of Tory-Labour talks and the possibility of a General Election).

This is how Sienna Rodgers, of LabourList commented on the current state of play: “In terms of the European elections, it means canvassers don’t have a crystal clear public vote message on the doorstep – but many MEP candidates are saying whatever they like anyway.”  And, she goes on to say: “Nearly half of them have already independently made a pure PV (“People’s Vote) pledge.” (LabourList, 1st May)  So, she is saying, Labour MEP candidates can save their asses by doing their own thing. But what will be the effect of the European Election on Labour?

It must be remembered the first anti-Corbyn coup was sprung on the pretext of allegedly disappointing  European Referendum results. With the North/South-Remain/Leave fault lines grown more pronounced, why would there not be another coup in the pipeline in this more unpredictable and game-changing scenario?

That’s the problem with the football metaphor. Football is played with a spherical ball. Its hop, where it’s going to land, is predictable. Not so the rugby ball. It’s egg-shaped. Its hop is unpredictable. Games are won and lost, at even the highest level, by an unlucky hop of the ball.

Maybe I should have picked rugby as the metaphor?  Or, maybe I’ve kicked the sports metaphor to death.