THE threat of a split – or to use the buzzier term, ‘an existential crisis’ – hangs over the Labour Party’s leadership contest. This has been translated as gun talk by some Corbyn supporters, who feel they are being told that whichever way it falls, they can’t have their man in charge: He is either voted out, or the party dissolves in two and he can be the leader of a party with only 40 MPs.
So the What If Corbyn Wins question is what really looms over the contest, as if Angela Eagle or Owen Smith are successful in ousting him then thousands of new members will head quickly for the door shouting of a betrayal, but the Parliamentary Labour Party will ensure that its entity survives with the Labour brand. If Corbyn wins, however, the MPs can hardly undo their coup and say: Ok, ok, we’ll work with him after all.
And here lies a difference in the way Camden’s MPs are being viewed by those locals who want them to help extend Corbyn’s leadershop.
Holborn and St Pancras’s Keir Starmer, who was one of those who tweeted his resignation letter, must see a rather conflicted timeline when he boots up his social media profiles. On the one hand, there are people urging him to stand for the leadership himself, for he is seen, not just in Camden, as a potential mediator who could stitch together open wounds and bring the left and centre back together, with all the confidence which Ed Miliband seemed to lack.
On the other, he is copping some flak for his role in the rebellion, having quit his job as Corbyn’s shadow minister working on immigration. With his majority, Keir can no doubt cope with being called disloyal from supporters of an MP who voted against his own party once or twice, but his feedback does contrast with Hampstead and Kilburn’s Tulip Siddiq who has publicly said so far that the party must stand united behind whoever wins the leadership contest, which would include Corbyn.
She is not talking about splits and schisms. Her tiptoed response is ridiculed as a ‘fudge’ or ‘sitting on the fence at the most crucial moment’ by some her former colleagues on Camden Council, but others says she is the one who should earn the ‘mediator’ – or ‘peacemaker’ – label. Somehow she managed to join the calls for a leadership challenge without really enraging Corbyn’s vociferous support.
In fact when Momentum, the group which looks to protect Corbyn’s leadership met last week, one of its members reported: “Disappointment was expressed at Keir Starmer’s complicity in the coup, but there was a round of applause for the stance that Tulip Siddiq took on it.”
During these tribal times, does Tulip wants everybody to know she gets cheers from Momentum? Who knows? Even though she nominated Jeremy Corbyn last year and helped him get onto the ballot paper with a stated desire to see a broadened debate, she actually supported Andy Burnham in the end. We must wait to see who gets her endorsement this time, when push inevitably comes to shove this time.