In the wake of Jeremy Corbyn’s meteoric rise in the Labour leadership election from crazy left-wing outsider to odds-on favourite, some of the Labour Party’s ‘modernisers’, which is a euphemism for people who joined a socialist party but weren’t keen on the idea of socialism, started an advocacy group called Labour for the Common Good.
This bastion of Blairism is led by Chuka Umunna, who has previously supported the Deputy Leadership candidacy of Blue Labourite John Cruddas, and Tristram Hunt, who in 2014, in an irony bypass, crossed an official picket line of the University and College Union at Queen Mary University in order to give a lecture entitled “Marx, Engels and Marxism”. However it has become clear that Umunna, rather than putting his beliefs before potential advancement like Corbyn had done for the last thirty years, is willing to do the exact opposite.
Shadow Business Secretary Chuka Umunna has offered a rare olive branch to Jeremy Corbyn by calling on the right-wing elements of the Labour Party to accept the result of the leadership election rather than plotting to overthrown Corbyn if he is elected in the most democratic Labour leadership contest ever. In a rare use of left-wing terminology Umunna called on all Labour members to show solidarity with the new leader and also said that New Labour supporters shouldn’t “dismiss the Left out of hand”.
This is an expertly move by Umunna who is thinking of his political career as he can now portray himself as a unifying figure rather than one sewing the seeds of factionalism and infighting. Umunna’s decision to speak out against people who he has more ideologically in common with is commendable but it must be acknowledged that this is a long-term goal to solidify or strengthen his position in the party and potentially position him for a future leadership run.
As if the idea of him speaking out in order to secure his own position wasn’t obvious enough, Umunna, after calling for solidarity, said he wouldn’t rule out serving in a Corbyn Cabinet presumably staying on as Business Secretary. Umunna put a caveat on this statement by saying that he could have a conversation with Corbyn but only if he were to modify his position on leaving NATO and scrapping Trident; I find it interesting that these two policies are about foreign affairs and if Umunna was offered to be Business Secretary there may be some negotiations on his part as his disagreements with Corbyn would be on issues outside his ministerial brief.
Although it is commendable that Umunna has come out in support of whoever wins the Labour leadership election, it cannot be overstated how this is not about the party or the future of left-wing politics in Britain, rather it is about Umunna’s future political clout as a member of the Shadow Cabinet so he can use this to run for the leadership. Umunna could be used by Corbyn in a Labour Shadow Cabinet as a unifying figure to bring Blairites into positions of relative power; the Blairites, being the divisive coup-plotters that they are, won’t refuse to be in the Shadow Cabinet as they would cite the maxim: “keep your friends close and our enemies closer”.