And so it has come to this. After a lively campaign ground out just 11 nominations for John McDonnell, he has stood aside to ensure that Dianne Abbot gets on the ballot.
Dave Semple’s reaction – furious and incisve in equal measure – is essential reading. And his fury is justified. The invertebrates in the parliamentary labour party have denied us - the membership – the right to decide whether a great standard bearer for the left ought to lead our party. Considering the circumstances it is deeply dissapointing that so few Labour MPs believed his candidacy to be worthwhile. Considering the obvious shortcomings of New Labour – which has spent 13 years making Britain less equal, which has left Tory anti-union laws on the books, and which has ploughed ahead with privatisations – you might think that a few more inspired souls in the PLP might consider the desirability of something different.
Yet in some ways this failure is not surprising. It appears the labour party has gone through a period of reverse Darwinism. Many who see politics not as an end in itself but as means of correcting pressing social injustices have left or been pushed out. Meanwhile, office seekers, placemen, and politically vacuous policy wonks have risen to the top. And increasingly it seems the membership – the ones who under very difficult circumstances helped the current PLP keep their jobs – are treated like a supporters club: good for canvassing, and good receivers of constant begging letters, but certainly not to be trusted with a serious choice on the future of Labour.
Under the circumstances Abbott has my support. Her decision to send her kid to the city of London left a bitter, but it’s not as important as some people seem to think. As I said before, what politicians do with the great levers of state power matters far more than personal behaviour.
But really and truly the PLP, rather than piling up superfluous votes for the Milibands in the hope of future patronage, ought to have offered us at the grass roots a more substantial choice.