Notes from the front – of 2/3/2016

Corbyn is overwhelmingly backed by Labour members – so can only be removed by a coup

Recent polling confirms that Jeremy Corbyn would be the choice of Labour Party members, by a large margin, if the Labour right challenged him in another contest. A decisive majority of members approve of his leadership and would vote to re-elect him, possibly with an even larger landslide than last year.

The ElectionData/YouGov poll of Labour Party members (published in three parts: here, here and here ) recorded Corbyn as having a net approval rating of 55 per cent (72 per cent approve – 17 per cent disapprove). His leadership is also approved of by Labour voters, with a net rating of 17 per cent (43 per cent approve – 26 per cent disapprove).

63 per cent of Labour members said Corbyn should lead Labour into the next general election. If the party performs badly in this May’s elections still a majority (53 per cent) want him to lead Labour’s fight to form the next government.

The poll found that Corbyn would decisively again win another leadership election. His support is far ahead of any potential rivals. The poll found that, if the other candidates were Hillary Benn, Dan Jarvis, Lisa Nandy, Angela Eagle and Tom Watson, Corbyn would win with 62 per cent of first preference votes, greater than the 59.5 per cent he achieved last September. The others only would secure respectively 15 per cent, 12 per cent, 3 per cent, 6 per cent and 3 per cent.

Labour members told the poll that Labour MPs should not publicly attack Corbyn. Asked if MPs should speak out where they disagree with the Labour Leader 63 per cent disagreed with only 30 per cent agreeing.

If Corbyn was removed from office before the next general election 23 per cent of members indicated they would leave the party.

John McDonnell also has strong support amongst the membership, with a net approval of 38 per cent (approve 57 per cent – disapprove 19 per cent). The poll also found that if there was a leadership election without Corbyn being a candidate McDonnell would lead on first preference votes with 29 per cent. The other candidates asked about, Hillary Benn, Dan Jarvis, Lisa Nandy, Angela Eagle and Tom Watson, secured respectively 20 per cent, 15 per cent, 6 per cent, 13 per cent and 17 per cent.

Labour’s membership will not elect a right-wing Leader if it has a democratic choice. So it remains urgent that Labour’s rules for electing its Leader are clarified to explicitly guarantee a democratic contest.

The priority is to remove the possibility of a coup against Corbyn, where he is blocked from running again for Leader. He should automatically be able to re-stand if there is a challenge, but the current rules lack specific clarity. It is widely believed the rules mean a sitting Leader can re-stand without having to reach any threshold of nominations. So this interpretation needs to be clearly stated in the rule book – an important tidying up exercise that can prevent there being a coup.

Also when there is next a vacancy for Leader the Labour right and centre will not make the mistake again of nominating a left winger. The current requirement, that a candidate be nominated by 15 per cent of Labour MPs and MEPs, allows a field of candidates that excludes the left. This undemocratic veto over the choice on the ballot paper needs to be changed. It is not unreasonable to have a higher threshold to challenge a sitting Leader, to prevent frivolous and destabilising challenges, but when there is a vacancy the contest should be open so that Labour’s membership can express its democratic views.

Addressing these weaknesses in the rules will help stabilise the Labour Party, as the right and centre will know they cannot stage a coup but can only win by convincing the party membership.

Refugees under assault in Calais – Support 19 March demo against racism

Since 29 February French authorities have been forcefully evicting refugees from the homes they have built in the migrant camp at Calais. They are moving some of the people on to a prison-like site of converted shipping containers in Calais and transporting others to centres elsewhere in France.

A French court has given the green light to evict the people and demolish all their homes. Clearing the entire camp may take several weeks.

Camp residents who have refused to move have been attacked with tear gas and their shelters set on fire.

There are over 9,000 people camped out in camps in northern France, seeking to travel on to Britain.

This is a very small number of people, relative to all those seeking refuge in Europe from the conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. But the Tory government is refusing to allow any people from these camps to come to Britain.

Jeremy Corbyn visited the camps in Calais and Dunkirk in January as did Diane Abbott, and attacked the government’s policy and urged it to let people in with a connection to Britain and join with other European countries in taking a share of refugees.

The Tories tough rhetoric on immigration is whipping up racism as a means to divert attention from the continuing deterioration of people’s living standards.

The 19 March Stand Up To Racism demonstration is an important part of the fight back against this offensive.

* National Demo: Refugees Welcome Here; Stand up to racism Islamophobia anti-Semitism & fascism! – Sat 19 March – Assemble 12 noon – Portland Place London

No surprise! Britain’s intervention in Syrian war involves few attacks on ISIS

Ministry of Defence reports have revealed that in the three months up to 18 February, after the Parliamentary vote, the RAF made 33 sorties in its Syrian war. Far from making the difference that Cameron suggested, the actual operation has been averaging less than one raid every two days. Equally, Brimstone missiles which he said would make ‘a meaningful difference’, are being used he admits ‘sparingly’.

The contrast was made very clear in the evidence presented by Sir Simon Mayall, until recently the Government’s Defence Senior Advisor for the Middle East, in his evidence to the House of Commons Defence Committee. On 9 February he stated ‘… we are now doing fewer air strikes or even sorties in a month than the Russians do in a day and that 75 per cent of our sorties are not dropping ordnance …’

He also clarified the real position with regards to Cameron’s suggestion of 75,000 ‘moderate’ ground forces in Syria. He told the committee ‘ … I find it difficult to see any really significant, joined up numbers of people we could put in the ‘moderate opposition’ category in the area where, largely, the major fighting is going on …’ The credibility of Cameron’s ‘strategy’ for UK intervention in Syria, and of the minority of Labour MPs who voted for it, is clearly shown to be non-existent.