Anger is growing within the ranks of the Labour Party over the continuing sabotage being carried out by the right within the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) at Westminster.
The decision by four Labour right-wingers to vote with the Tories over the Brexit trade bill, thereby helping May to avoid a potentially disastrous defeat, has aroused considerable fury amongst grassroots Labour members.
Demands are now circulating for the Brexit gang of four - Frank Field, Kate Hoey, John Mann and Graham Stringer - to be deselected. Laura Parker, Momentum’s national organiser, has correctly said that “there is no room for Labour MPs who side with the reactionary Tory establishment”.
Already this call has borne fruit. Last Thursday, the Vauxhall Constituency Labour Party (CLP) passed a vote of no confidence in Hoey, the local MP. A day later, the local party in Birkenhead passed a similar motion with reference to Frank Field.
Unsurprisingly, these right-wing MPs have rallied against the attack on their supposedly divine right to sit in Parliament unchallenged for the rest of their lives. Field, for example, complained vehemently about “certain people in the Birkenhead CLP who are fixated on the idea of trying to get rid of me.” And why do you think might that be?
Field has, with varying degrees of consistency, argued for all manner of right-wing ideas over the years. Even Tony Blair at one point called the MP’s plans “not so much unthinkable as unfathomable”.
In 2008, the Telegraph named Field as the 100th most-influential right-winger in the UK. Elsewhere, the Birkenhead MP has described Maggie Thatcher as “certainly a hero” to him. And yet he seems unable to grasp why party members might have had enough of him.
A rogues’ gallery
And what about the other three?
Kate Hoey has been the MP for Vauxhall since 1989, when the right-dominated Labour Party NEC imposed her as the candidate despite her only receiving one nomination.
She has, it is claimed, supported the election of unionists in the north of Ireland and opposed the ban on fox hunting, becoming chair of the Countryside Alliance in 2005.
Having opposed issues such as the war in Iraq, university tuition fees, and so on, she has up to now been seen as some sort of independent maverick within the party. However, party members have been increasingly angry over her close links to the Leave campaign and former UKIP leader Nigel Farage.
Graham Stringer has been another vocal mouthpiece for the right inside the PLP over the years. Like Field and Hoey, he has been prone to adopting bizarre positions. These have included denying that dyslexia exists and having links to the Global Warming Policy Foundation, a climate change denying group. He is listed on the group’s website as a trustee, alongside Lord Lawson and Peter Lilley.
John Mann, meanwhile, has had a long and undistinguished career of fighting the left inside the labour movement. Starting off as a careerist crony inside Labour Students, Mann later became an official for the then right-dominated AEEU union before entering parliament.
He has been one of the most consistent, outspoken, and vicious opponents of Jeremy Corbyn, constantly attacking the Labour leader at every available opportunity over the past few years.
In recent months, in particular, Mann has been one of the key figures in the (ongoing and escalating) Blairite campaign to smear Corbyn and the left with allegations of anti-semitism.
Establishment closes ranks
These four “mavericks” now find themselves in a quandary. They have the same reactionary positions as the rest of the Blairite forces in the PLP, but with one notable exception: where as the rest of the Labour right wing are Europhiles, these four “rebels” are Brexiteers.
As such, these Leave-supporting Labour MPs cannot be pulled (for now) into the grand plan being cooked-up by the establishment for a new “centre ground” grouping of soft Brexit Tories, Lib Dems, and Blairites.
Such a plan is openly discussed around Westminster and in the press. The aim of the more globally-minded capitalists and their representatives is clear: to “save Britain” (i.e. the profits of big business) by creating a government of “national unity” to prevent a hard Brexit.
This strategy also conveniently unites the bulk of the establishment on two key questions: stopping a hard Brexit (or, worse, a car-crash no deal Brexit); and, as importantly, stopping Corbyn from getting into Number Ten.
The growing lead for Labour in the opinion polls has underlined this looming disaster facing the ruling class.
A risky gamble
The creation of such a “centre ground” party or “national government”, however, would come with enormous risks for the establishment. Above all, they do not want to split the Tories - their First XI - unless absolutely necessary.
Meanwhile, such a move would also result in their agents in the Labour Party, the Blairites, losing any remaining grip they have over Her Majesty’s Opposition. And without the active sabotage of the right-wingers in the PLP, there is the threat that the Party could be pushed far to the left by the Corbyn movement.
Finally, a lurking fear over the fate of the unlamented SDP also haunts the corridors of power. The serious strategists of the capitalist class saw what happened in the 1980s when the right-wing of the Labour Party split away and are concerned about seeing a similar failure this time round.
In other words, the ruling class worries that this gamble - the last throw of the dice of a “national government” - could fail and leave them with nothing; nobody left in Parliament to reliably represent their interests.
Not just a few bad apples
As such, the “new centre” plan may be scuppered for now. But the fear is that at some point - perhaps sooner rather than later - this current Tory government will fall and a new general election will produce the result that nobody in the estabishment wants.
Hence the continued efforts of the Blairites to cause as much damage as possible to Corbyn and the Labour Party from the inside.
It is therefore not just about the actions of a few pro-Brexit Labour “mavericks” (or “independent thinkers” as the Guardian likes to put it). Rather, the labour movement needs to put an end to the constant class collaboration of all the big business politicians that infest Labour’s ranks at Westminster.
We need to boot out not just those who vote with the Tories on Brexit, but also all the traitors in the PLP who support Tory austerity and war also.
These ladies and gentlemen are already far removed from the desires of grassroots Labour members and voters. Their constant chumming up to the Tories just exposes them for what they are - a pro-capitalist Trojan Horse inside the Labour Party.
We must therefore demand mandatory reselection for all Labour MPs. Let us see how popular these careerists really are when forced to run as independents.
The fight must be to get rid of not only the likes of Field, Hoey, Stringer and Mann, but all those who are unwilling to fight for the interests of the working class and for the socialist policies needed to defeat this rotten capitalist system.