Tonight's Parliamentary Labour Party meeting began with loud cheers. As with most PLP meetings nowadays, these weren't directed at the Labour leader and nor was Jeremy Corbyn around to hear them. Corbyn had earlier sent his apologies that he was unable to make the first PLP meeting since the party's defeat in Copeland due to a prior engagement.
In his absence, Gareth Snell -- the new Stoke-on-Trent Central MP -- was given a rousing reception, as was Andrew Gwynne -- the MP behind the by-election campaigns. When Gwynne attempted to take some of the blame for his party's loss in Copeland, he was shouted down by supportive colleagues who said that he had done everything he could. MPs, too, seemed relatively happy with their ground game and the efforts of the PLP throughout both campaigns.
While some were rattled by Corbyn's absence (which meant it wasn't possible to have a 'high level discussion' on what had gone wrong), it was another member of Team Corbyn's absence which inspired the greatest wrath. Following Shami Chakrabarti's appearance on the Andrew Marr show on Sunday where she blamed the Copeland loss on everything from Labour neglect to Peter Mandelson to a lack of cars, MPs voiced their anger. As they defended their own campaign efforts, there was unanimous agreement that the whole party should be defending what Labour achieved during their time in government rather than using it as an excuse for any failings today. Lilian Greenwood received the biggest laugh when the Labour MP read out a long list of everything certain people had blamed the defeat on -- before asking if there was anything missing from that list.
While MPs were already struggling to contain their anger towards Shami, things took a turn for the worse near the end of the meeting when a photo emerged of Chakrabarti drinking in the Pugin Room with Diane Abbott. As one MP put it, this 'didn't help massively' -- 'she had a lot to say at weekend so it's a shame she didn't have a lot to say tonight'. There is a growing feeling of frustration that Chakrabarti is unelected yet speaks with the authority of someone who is.
Abbott and Chakrabarti's decision to miss tonight's meeting meant there was no-one present to properly represent Corbyn in his absence. This highlights how wide the gulf between the PLP and Corbyn's team has grown.