MEMBERS and delegates here in Brighton will tell you they are all here in the spirit of unity to talk about the apparent one last heave needed to get Labour back into power. You can easily spot the difference in their starting points, however, when they either talk warmly about Jeremy Corbyn and his leadership, or how it the real star of the election was the manifesto. The divisions, which are being characterised pretty openly as a straight punch-up between Momentum (the group which helped organise Jeremy Corbyn’s rise) and Progress (the group which helped Tony Blair’s), remain close to the surface nonetheless.
Take yesterday evening’s sedate ‘review of the year’ meeting organised by the Fabian Society, where people shared ‘well you’d never have thought that would happen’ stories in a function room of the Holiday Inn. It was all very convivial until the last moments when a gruff member from east London suddenly demanded an apology from Evening Standard columnist (and member of the Holborn and St Pancras Labour Party) Ayesha Hazarika for being less than kind about Corbyn in past works.
Almost immediately after the result was known, Ms Hazarika wrote an article confessing she had called it wrong and Corbyn had sprung a welcome surprise for the Labour Party, but her pre-match comment pieces have onviously not been forgotten, particularly those such as this for Total Politics: “It’s clear that he [Corbyn] is going nowhere. This dude has got wasted on the Kool-Aid. Ironically as an insurgent, he’s succumbed the worst trait of those establishment leaders he railed against – narcissism…. I’m reminded from a scene from Blackadder where the deluded Prince exclaims “Listen – they love me. We hail you. We hail you – they’re saying.” “No Sir – we hate you…. They’re saying they hate you.”
SO, ARE YOU GOING TO APOLOGISE?, came the question from the back of the room; more of a heckle really.
Fellow panellist Shami Chakrabarti jumped in and said she didn’t want to hear a blame game all conference but Ms Hazarika, a sort of perma-pundit on the Sky News paper review and well known for swapping life as a special adviser to Ed Miliband for a career in stand-up comedy, held her own for herself and essentially asked the man asking the heckle whether he would apologise to her.
“I haven’t so much eaten humble pie, as face-planted myself in humble pie – but I don’t know what you want us to do? Do you want us to crawl over broken glass and beg for your forgiveness? Do you want me to be flogged or what?,” she said. “So I say to you again, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry – I don’t know what more I can do but I think we all need to move on from this. I hope you might at some point apologise to me for just kind of hounding me about this. I’m happy to shake your hand and draw a line under it if you are.”