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Tuesday, January 05, 2016 

That reshuffle, and "low-level non-violent misogyny".

Are there a more benighted people in this country than the poor, suffering souls of the Birmingham Yardley constituency?  Up until May they were lumbered with the self-promoting Lib Dem John Hemming, who repeatedly made use of parliamentary privilege for his own ends, much to the delight of the press when it came to naming Sir Fred Goodwin for taking out a super-injunction, and much to the distress of others involved in legal proceedings involving Vicky Haigh.  Hemming made a habit of naming individuals who were meant to be protected as court proceedings were ongoing, including doing so on Mumsnet, where he was banned for doing so.  Fortunately, his constituents decided he should also be banned from representing them.

Less fortunately, they decided that Labour's Jess Phillips should replace him.  Phillips seems intent on following the Danczuk pathway to MP super-stardom, where the sufferer believes that constantly spouting what the media wants to hear will be enough to save them should their new friends eventually tire of the act.  As the last few days have proved, going down the Danczuk route only guarantees that eventually the media will turn on you.  They always will, they always do.  One minute you're earning thousands of pounds writing articles for the Sun and Mail outlining how your party leader is an idiot and it'll be when, rather if, you'll be sacked, the next those same newspapers have found a teenager who you sexted, complete with an (alleged) sideline in selling soiled undergarments, natch, and what do you know, that same party leader has found his excuse to get rid of you.  And it's the fault of everything except your being a priapic halfwit, obviously.

For now at least, Phillips gives great copy.  She'll stab Corbyn in the front if she believes he's harming the party's electoral chances.  Don't lecture her on how to vote on Syria, as even though she voted against, "people will die no matter what decision was made", responsibility when it's British pilots, planes and bombs involved apparently not making any difference to her thinking.  And while the rest of us can move on, her "card is marked", as Phillips is never knowingly under-dramatic.  Indeed, in keeping with that theme, she's now upped the criticism of her party leader for not giving a woman one of the four shadow "great offices of state" to being "low-level non-violent misogyny".  No longer is Corbyn merely sexist for his choices, it's proof he hates women.  At a low-level and non-violently, anyway.

It's worth keeping all this in mind when considering the quite believable stupidity of the coverage of the is it or isn't it reshuffle of the past 48 hours or so.  From the beginning some hacks and MPs have labelled it a "revenge reshuffle", which may or may not be attributed to briefings from Corbyn's head of communications Seumas Milne, but which nonetheless has turned out to be nothing of the sort.  First, what supposedly is Corbyn seeking revenge over?  If he really was intent on clearing the decks of everyone critical of him, let alone those who voted the other way on Syria, then it would seemingly require the entire shadow cabinet to go, such has been the leaking and whispers to the press almost since he became leader about how useless and what a liability he is.

Second, his moves so far, regardless of whether it was the intention to begin with or not, have been to move those most serially disloyal and critical.  Michael Dugher has been practically asking for it Danczuk-style for months.  Back in September (!) he was saying how self-indulgent it was to carry on with the navel-gazing, and boy did he not take his own advice.  Maria Eagle meanwhile likely sealed her fate when she practically agreed with General Sir Nicholas Houghton's comments on Trident on the Andrew Marr show.  Disagreeing with the leader on nuclear weapons is one thing; all but backing up a general intervening in party politics to implicitly criticise that leader is another.

If this has nonetheless been an example in how not to carry out a reshuffle, it's also been a case study into how not to report one.  First it was definite Hilary Benn was being sacked, then it wasn't, then it might be back on, now it isn't again, or maybe it is.  Who knows?  Who by the time it happens will care?  If this was meant to be a revenge reshuffle, as they were so convinced, why it hasn't it turned out that way?  Have they been played by Corbyn's team, or have they just believed everything they've been told or picked up as being gospel truth because they can't stop tweeting or updating the live blogs?  As increasingly is the case, it's also become about them: we might have hyped this whole thing up to absurd levels, but why can't it now be over?  What are we still waiting for?  Then, finally, there's the we were right smugness, as displayed last night by Laura Kuenssberg: hyuk hyuk, so much for a new, honest politics, allowing for dissent and openness.

As Owen Jones points out, rightly for once, no other Labour leader has or would have tolerated the level of criticism, of near mutiny as Corbyn has the past 4 months.  Michael Dugher's claims of merely responding to briefing against Benn, Eagle and others, of practising straight, honest politics is absurd, as though this has been a one-sided operation.  Reading all the tributes paid to him for no longer being shadow culture secretary, you would have thought he'd died.  Yes, we all know Jeremy was a inveterate rebel, and so can't expect the level of loyalty past leaders have, but he is perfectly entitled to want his shadow ministers for foreign affairs and defence to back him, if not always agree with him.  As it is, he looks to have come to some sort of agreement with Benn, even if it might only delay the inevitable.  No one can say that he hasn't tried to make allowances, regardless of the way it has and is being spun.

Equally, you can't pretend this is anything other than the worst possible way for Labour to start the new year.  The media are determined for their part to make sure the infighting continues, not least when some are set on causing mischief for their own reasons, but complaining about it is all but pointless.  Today ought to have been solely about how Cameron can't whip his cabinet into supporting him on Europe, a measure of weakness that says much about his position, the manoeuvring of those who want to take over from him, and the impact it could have on our staying in the EU, with all a Brexit would entail for our economic and national security, as the Tory messaging would have it.  Both critics and supporters of Corbyn have repeatedly said it's long past time when the focus should be on the government's failings rather than Labour's own.  Surely now we've reached the point where both must practice what they preach.

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Both critics and supporters of Corbyn have repeatedly said it's long past time when the focus should be on the government's failings rather than Labour's own. Surely now we've reached the point where both must practice what they preach.

Sure, but how is it possible for the Opposition to carry out the task of holding the Government to account when they have a serious number of backbenchers who want to prevent them from doing so effectively?

Jess Phillips is really getting to me now. She's quickly turned into a one note rent a quote. But one who justifies the damage she's doing with the "I'm a woman speaking my mind don't silence me" act. As you say, she'll be used and then dumped by the press eventually.

I've read that some people think that Jess Phillips could be a potential leader! I really hope that someone takes her aside and explains that that is just press mischief making. If Corbyn gets criticised for having no experience at running anything or even once having a Ministerial position, then how the hell Phillips is suitable I don't know. She'll probably fall into the trap though.

As someone pointed out to me, it's funny how all the feminists in the Labour party have been so quiet about Simon Danczuk's recent escapades?

Don't know if you have been following Peter Jukes on twitter, but there is some astonishing stuff out there about Kuenssberg "helping" Stephen Doughty to resign.

The blog that was written by one of the Daily Politics staffers was deleted, but can be found here:

http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache%3AtCufUeYIpA4J%3Awww.bbc.co.uk%2Fblogs%2Fcollegeofjournalism%2Fentries%2F82a00c77-c0cc-4e79-99ca-25e9c21d01a7+&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=uk

Yes, I've seen it. It's not worth getting worked up about; more worthy is that it took until yesterday evening for Kuenssberg to finally do some actual journalism on the reshuffle, the BBC's coverage being as hopeless as everyone else's. The only other thing worth taking from it is it demonstrates the shamelessness of Doughty.

Phillips incidentally has an article in the Graun where she writes yes, my "phraseology" was clumsy and Corbyn himself isn't a misogynist but his actions are misogynist and you're all telling me to shut up. No, we're criticising you for saying things that are not true, which you are now repeating. And no, she doesn't mention Danczuk, but does go on about how the hard left is misogynistic, invoking Galloway and the SWP, as Jeremy and his team are closer to them than her. She's being principled, like Jeremy, you see.

Thanks for the reply. I've never liked Kuenssberg. It's always been obvious where her sympathies are from her body language and her facial contortions in her interviews. There is an obvious hard ambition that oozes from her, but that is a personal dislike on my part.

I know it's not worth getting worked up about but it's the difficulty in deciding if her (and Andrew Neil's) behaviour is journalistic ambition or part of a "nudge, nudge, wink, wink, see what we did for you" campaign during the BBC's Charter renewal. The obvious pulling of punches and "editorial" decisions during the election alarmed me.

Whether it's a managerial idea or subordinates having blood rush to their heads I don't know.

On Jess Phillips: "No, we're criticising you for saying things that are not true, which you are now repeating". Yep, exactly. I trust that she would be happy for someone to "knife her in the front" (another wonderful quote from her) if it turned out that she was damaging the Labour party in the way she thinks Corbyn is?

I too saw that Guardian article. I assume the Galloway referencing was a way of attacking his well known friend Seamus Milne. I know you aren't a fan but his book on the miner's strike is great.

Christ! Even Peter Hitchens is firing off about how shameless they are!

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