Labour Grassroots – All Roots, No Shoots?

It’s 24th September. Jeremy Corbyn has just won his second leadership election in a year. Landslide victory. 61.8%. Against all odds.

Corbyn won not just because of his own team’s active campaigning; but because of Labour activists throughout the country, delivering huge success via social media, in addition to in-person campaigning.

Fast-forward two weeks. Jeremy Corbyn has created the most ethnically diverse and gender-balanced Shadow Cabinet of any front-bench in history.

Made-up not just of six BAME Ministers but a majority-female Cabinet, including a female Home Secretary and Foreign Secretary.

A few days ago we published a piece on this; stating just a handful of Jeremy’s record-breaking achievements. But we need to recap.

Today – just two weeks later – we’d be mistaken for thinking the same grassroots that elected Jeremy have now abandoned him.

When Keir Starmer (newly-appointed Shadow Minister for Brexit) appeared on Sunday’s Marr Show, he delivered something different: a balanced, polished, politically-relevant performance. Nothing flashy. Nothing unorthodox. Just smooth-talking. Clean-shaven. Shirt-buttoned. Standard.

We’ve missed this.

As someone who resigned their Shadow Cabinet post earlier this year, Keir is one of the many MPs who returned to the front-bench to back Corbyn and fight the Tories.

During his interview, Keir outlined the following:

  1. “Great concern” about migration but it needs to be discussed in a “way that’s meaningful.”
  2. Don’t “fan the flames of division.”
  3. Gain “democratic grip of the [Brexit] process.”
  4. “Terms” of Brexit have to be put to Parliament.
  5. Open to adjustments of freedom of movement but being “shrewd and careful” about it.
  6. Lastly (and perhaps most importantly): migration “should be reduced and it should be reduced by making sure we have the skills in this country that are needed for the jobs that need to be done.”

Nothing here appears to be out of line with Corbyn’s message of focusing on positives of immigration, and to not aim at an arbitrary cap. Indeed, Keir went out of his way to address the key point: that Brexit cannot be used as a way to attack migrants.

Yet, in the aftermath of the interview, semi-influential, grassroots Twitter accounts were running polls asking if and when Starmer should be sacked from the Shadow Cabinet for his comments. A different reality.

These same, pro-Corbyn campaigners – who succeeded so well in getting him elected – have now taken it upon themselves to attack Corbyn’s own appointments to his own Shadow Cabinet.

Others have gone further.

When Jeremy spoke at an anti-racism event on Saturday, there was uproar from senior, grassroots activists and established, Left-wing journalists.

Corbyn even had to release a statement justifying his appearance at the event after earlier indications he’d decline. (As it happens, this was due to a pre-planned trip to Scotland, which he did not make; allowing him to attend the event).

The event was controversial for one reason: the SWP was a main organiser (even though the event itself was not an SWP function).

Had this been an event co-created by the Conservative Party; praise would have reigned-down on Corbyn’s shoulders for “reaching-out” and “looking beyond Party politics.”

So why the change of approach?

Now Corbyn has a second mandate, his leadership position is incontrovertible. It seems some on the Left feel he is therefore subject to public criticism; just like anyone else.

But we need to be careful.

First, of the many things to criticise Jeremy Corbyn; attending an anti-racism event seems a poor choice.

Second, even if Jeremy deserves criticism; does he really need it the same weekend he selected a new Shadow Cabinet? Criticising him publicly – often aggressively – defers attention from the real issue of establishing a new, record-breaking Shadow Cabinet.

Third, by jumping down Jeremy’s throat; we are in danger of subverting his own support-base. How can we be taken seriously? How do we expect others to support him? There is no need – or desire – for “blind loyalty.” But there is a time and a place for criticism. And it isn’t now.

The Left is in danger of becoming self-righteous; monopolising its own claims to Corbyn, expecting him to do whatever we like now he’s elected.

After attacking the mainstream media for accusing him of naivete during the campaign, the least we could expect is to not charge him with the same offence once elected.

Now is not the time to attack. Now is the time to unite around him and support him.

An attack on any member of the Shadow Cabinet is an attack on Jeremy Corbyn. He selected them. They agreed to serve. For the good of the Party. For the good of the country.

So, we say enough. Enough egotism. Enough self-criticism.

From now on, we focus on the Tories. We support the Shadow Cabinet. We support Jeremy Corbyn.

Join us in Tweeting new Shadow Cabinet ministers our welcome, thanks and best wishes for the fight ahead. They will need our support. It’s our job to provide it.