John Woodcock, the Blairite MP for Barrow and Furness and outspoken Corbyn critic, has resigned from the Labour Party. He will now remain in Parliament as an ‘independent’. Everyone on the left will no doubt be saying: good riddance!
However, this resignation raises the question as to why right-wing MPs like Woodcock have been allowed to continue with their careers in the Party for so long, when their sole contribution in recent years has been to undermine Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership.
Ruling class representative
Woodcock has a long history of serving the ruling class from within the Labour Party. Formerly a special adviser to Lord Hutton (one of Blair’s closest cabinet ministers), and later a No. 10 aide to Gordon Brown, he went on to chair Progress – the big-business-backed Blairite network within the Labour Party.
Ever since Corbyn’s election as Labour leader in 2015, meanwhile, Woodcock has been one of his most vocal and consistent opponents, seeking to undermine and remove him at every available opportunity.
In April this year Woodcock was suspended from the Labour Party, pending an investigation into allegations that he had sent inappropriate text messages to a former female aid.
Then this week, on 18th July, Woodcock submitted his formal resignation to the Party, citing the refusal of the Party to waive its normal disciplinary procedure in his case - i.e. to give him special treatment.
Woodcock used his resignation letter to launch another tirade of attacks and insults against Corbyn. He claims that the Labour leader would pose a “clear risk to UK national security as prime minister”. Presumably this means that he thinks Corbyn cannot be trusted to reliably carry out the demands of British imperialism.
The former Labour MP, on the other hand, has proven himself to be a reliable representive for British imperialism since taking his seat in Parliament in 2010. Take for example his support for military intervention in Libya and the bombing of Syria: both of which Woodcock voted for, but which Corbyn rejected.
In his resignation letter, Woodcock laments that Labour “is no longer the broad church it has always historically been”. Woodcock’s idea of a “broad church”, however, is so broad as to include Tory-supporting MPs such as himself - big business agents who apparently should be free to attack the democratically elected leader of the party with impunity.
During the 2017 general election campaign, for example, Woodcock scandalously posted a video message to his constituents stating he wanted to be elected as the Labour candidate, but that he “[would] not countenance ever voting to make Jeremy Corbyn Britain’s prime minister”!
Elsewhere, during the recent Windrush scandal, Woodcock took to Twitter to say that Labour should have “more common ground with her [Amber Rudd, the Tory Home Secretary at the time] than with so many of her potential successors” – i.e. Diane Abbott.
These are just a few examples of Woodcock’s outrageous attacks, which he has regularly churned out for years. Woodcock’s desired church is therefore only broad enough if it includes a big “WELCOME” sign for Tory clones, and a “KEEP OUT” notice for the left.
Amber Rudd has screwed up big time, no question. And there is now clearly a significant question mark over her competence. But Labour has more common ground with her than so many of her potential successors - we should be careful what we wish for.— John Woodcock (@JWoodcockMP) April 27, 2018
In his parting shot, Woodcock also has the cheek to say that, under Corbyn, the Labour Party is unable to “promote a credible alternative government”. As if the Tory-supporting behaviour of Woodcock and his Blairite friends is an example of how to provide a credible opposition!
Unfortunately for Woodcock, voters do not seem to agree with him, with some polls putting Labour five points ahead of the Tories.
What Woodcock is really upset about is that right-wing MPs like himself are losing their grip over Labour. With an influx of hundreds of thousands of Corbyn-supporting members into the party over the past three years, the Blairites can feel the ground slipping from under their feet.
In numerous wards and constituency parties across the country, the left have won important officer positions. The overwhelming majority of delegates to the annual Labour conference are now Momentum-backed. Even on the National Executive Committee (NEC), the right wing have lost their majority. And with the replacement of Iain McNicol as general secretary by Jennie Formby, the Blairites are even losing control of the party apparatus.
One down, many more to go
Unfortunately, Woodcock is not the only Blairite Labour MP that needs to hand in his resignation notice. Although others like him - such as now ex-MPs Simon Danczuk, Tristram Hunt, and Heidi Alexander - have also cleared off during the past period, many many more remain.
172 MPs signed their names the “chicken coup” attempt to remove Corbyn in 2016. Although not all of these are out-and-out Blairites, this betrayal nevertheless shows where the real interests of many Labour MPs lies.
Since then, unable to win the political argument against Corbyn’s popular policies, a clique of Blairite gangsters have continued their guerrilla war. The focus of their efforts has been to try and paint Corbyn and his supporters as being anti-Semitic.
The latest hue and cry is being led by the wealthy Labour MP for Barking, Dame Margaret Hodge, who has tried to kick up a storm over the definition of anti-Semitism in Labour’s code of conduct.
The Labour NEC adopted the definition given by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) in full into the Party’s code. However, they did not include some of the examples given in the IHRA guidance, which - as Labour MP and chair of the Palestine parliamentary group Richard Burden argues - have been used to suppress legitimate concerns over Israel.
This is what prompted Dame Margaret this week to confront Corbyn in Westminster and call him “a f******* anti-Semite and a racist”, an attack she is now facing disciplinary action for.
Needless to say, all the usual suspects have been quick to defend Hodge - claiming the party should apologise to her!
You can but speculate what the fate would be for any ordinary party member were they to use the same crude language face-to-face with any of our brave MPs.
The national press has also rushed to back Hodge, using this as yet another stick to beat Corbyn with, whilst distracting from the pressures on May and the Tory government.
Again, we can see clearly whose interests are being served by Hodge and the rest of the Blairite gang.
Finish the Corbyn revolution
These recent events highlight that, despite almost three years of a Corbyn leadership, the battle to reclaim the Labour Party from the grip of the Blairites is far from over.
John Woodcock’s departure is clearly to be welcomed. However, the fact that he (and many others in the Parliamentary Labour Party) could publicly undermine Corbyn and his supporters with impunity for so long indicates a lack of democratic accountability within the Labour Party.
Clearly this situation would not persist if elected representatives were subject to mandatory re-selection – that is, if grassroots party members had the automatic right to democratically chose their parliamentary candidates.
Mandatory re-selection of MPs would be a significant tool in allowing ordinary members to clean out these Blairite relics of the past. Yet the leadership of Momentum – the national group set up to organise activists in support of Corbyn and his programme – has repeatedly rejected backing mandatory re-selection. In doing so, they vainly hope to placate the Labour right wing and keep the peace.
Despite this, the pressure from below may well force Momentum’s hand to come out fighting. Recently, for example, Laura Parker – Momentum’s national coordinator – called for the deselection of the four Labour MPs who voted with the Tories on this week’s Brexit amendments.
As we have explained elsewhere, the call to deselect these right-wing MPs on the grounds of their Brexit position is to demand the right action for the wrong reason.
These ladies and gentlement - Kate Hoey, John Mann, Frank Field, and Graham Stringer - should be deselected along with dozens of other Blairite MPs for their consistent sabotage of Corbyn’s leadership and policies, not for their support for a hard Brexit.
Nevertheless, merely raising the question of deselection opens up a potential Pandora’s Box. The cat is now out of the bag when it comes to Momentum and the possibility of deselecting renegade Labour MPs. And as the old saying goes: appetite comes with eating.
Rather than focussing on removing just a handful of traitorous MPs from the top, however, we should demand that all Labour representatives face mandatory re-selection before the next election.
Only in this way can we replace all those Labour MPs who continue to side with the ruling class with candidates who are willing to fight for the socialist aspirations of the majority of the membership.
We say: good riddance to John Woodcock! But the fight remains to transform the Labour Party from top-to-bottom and reclaim complete control from the big-business gang that continues to lurk within the PLP.
Image of Margaret Hodge by Chris Bolland