I guess that the synchronized refusal by the Blairites to serve on the front bench is a declaration that there will be regular defiance of the whip. But when people break the whip – it is not usually a light-minded thing. It risks disciplinary action by the party – although such a centralized coercive act is unlikely from Corbyn. But more importantly it risks alienating your own party members. Defying the whip is not an individualistic expression that your view is more important than the Party. To be successful it has to be a statement of principle – talking over the heads of the party to the membership and to the public and getting their support and respect.
I am trying to think what the Blairites principled statements might be and whom they think will be impressed by them.
Whilst almost every rebelling left MP in the past could expect to be supported by his/ her local Party, where do our possible Blairite rebels expect to get their support?
Certainly not on domestic issues of union rights or welfare cuts? Or did they not notice that the disastrous abstention on welfare cuts is what finished off Andy Burnham.
Perhaps on foreign policy or Trident? It is true that Corbyn’s policy is pacifistic and incomplete. But what alternative will they or the Tories offer? And do they expect the new party membership or the public to support a new war in Syria without a goal and whilst backing Turkey and Saudi Arabia’s anti-democratic activities there.
The EU? Corbyn looks as though he will be not calling to leave the EU but to change it. There needs to be, and will be, a full discussion in the Party first. But will the Blairites point of principle be tacking to the right of Corbyn on immigration. Will they mobilize the Party and public against the leader Corbyn around the infamous ‘Control Immigration’ slogan.
But as the public watches and weeps at the plight of the refugees and migrants, they would also have to call for mass heart transplants.
Or will they make a point of principle having an alliance in the referendum with the Tories as in the Better Together campaign. Party members everywhere are furious with that stupid charade that ruined Labour in Scotland.
So the threats of regular whip defiance may only isolate the Blairites further – they need to think very carefully about it.