Tonight Labour’s Shadow Cabinet is in uproar over what many of its members see as a fundamental breach of trust from Jeremy Corbyn in writing to the parliamentary party without telling them. ‘Why would you do that?’ asks one shadow minister in utter bafflement.
They thought it odd that Corbyn had read from a printed statement about his position on strikes in the meeting, rather than addressing them directly, but odder still that he just hadn’t thought to tell them that he would be writing this letter. There is a suspicion that this evening’s letter is part of a co-ordinated effort with grassroots organisation Momentum to make MPs’ lives miserable over the next few days as they are subjected to furious lobbying from their local parties.
Most Shadow Cabinet ministers are tough enough to deal even with a furious lobbying operation. But they wonder how the party is practically going to manage the next few days. It’s a long time for MPs to be at liberty to criticise this decision in public, to discuss it with one another - and for Corbyn to do other things that they hadn’t predicted. ‘It’s terrible from a media management point of view,’ complains one old hand.
Among the majority who are in favour of air strikes against Islamic State in Syria, there is a clear view: either Corbyn allows them to vote in favour, or there will be a good number of resignations from the Shadow Cabinet. And they will be resignations, not people daring Corbyn to sack them. Most of those who agreed to Shadow Cabinet positions did so for the good of the Labour party, not the good of Jeremy Corbyn. Some of those are starting to wonder whether staying in is really going to help. Others feel screwed over and humiliated by the Corbyn operation, such that it is. They seem far less taken with a man who they previously thought was wrong but very pleasant. Now they seem to see him as wrong, weak and very bad at dealing with anyone who doesn’t totally agree with him.