Dianne Hayter, Labour’s deputy leader in the Lords, has been sacked as a shadow Brexit minister after she likened the party leadership to the Nazis. It is not unusual in political discourse to refer to a ‘bunker mentality’, but Hayter used that phrase and then specifically compared Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership to “the last days of Hitler”. A Labour spokesperson last night described the remarks as “truly contemptible, and grossly insensitive to Jewish staff in particular”.
Wes Streeting, the Labour MP who was speaking on the same panel of Corbynsceptics, tweeted that the sacking was a “gross over-reaction” and proof in itself of Hayter’s argument. “Nice to know that swift action is taken to protect @jeremycorbyn’s feelings, but shame we can’t act against racists,” he wrote. To see Hayter’s comments in full and decide for yourself, watch Labour First’s recording of their Tuesday meeting from 14:00.
The increasing volume of internal rows over antisemitism as we approach the summer recess – starting next week after Boris Johnson becomes our Prime Minister – means talk of another leadership coup is louder than it has been for some time. This speculation intensified last night when David Osland, lefty journalist and party activist, tweeted: “Diane Abbott telling Labour public meeting in Hackney she expects third leadership challenge this summer.” HuffPostUK has her comments in full.
Is another coup likely? Anti-leadership MPs and activists spot an opportunity in the Labour left divisions over antisemitism and Brexit. The failure to build an argument for Lexit or explain how Brexit has been central to much of Labour’s policy work since 2016 means the party has been forced to back ‘Remain and reform’ – and yet is deeply sceptical of that message. (For a recent example as to why that scepticism persists, read this piece on European Labour supporting Ursula von der Leyen.) Diane Abbott and other key allies are happy to promote the Remain stance, but other important figures are not. Labour is left with an odd position on the main issue of the day that is both daring and unconvincing.
Corbyn’s enemies are generally willing to compromise on who the future leader would be, with ‘soft left’ names such as Angela Rayner and Emily Thornberry often cited as potential challengers. Plus, there are new, massive email lists for Corbynsceptics to use in any fresh leadership race thanks to the various campaigns for a public vote. Some reckon this is an opportune moment, with a snap election possibly just around the corner. The Spectator’s Isabel Hardman concludes in her cover piece today on Labour’s factions and deputy leader: “[Tom] Watson can’t afford to delay now.”
And yet Labour First’s Luke Akehurst, who wants another contest and thinks Corbyn’s opponent could win, has cast doubt on Abbott’s analysis. In his tweeted reply, he points out that Labour MPs actually just want “a rest”. It’s certainly true that Westminster is exhausted and looking forward to the summer break. Corbynsceptic MPs may simply cross their fingers and hope that Labour doesn’t win the next election.Sign up to LabourList’s morning email for everything Labour, every weekday morning.