My favourite comment about Angela Eagle came from some unnamed spiteful Corbynista MP who, with reference to her twin sister Maria, a former cabinet minister, observed that Angela was ‘the lesser of two Eagles’ and ‘not even the best politician in her own family’. Perhaps he was the bloke who chucked a brick through Mrs Eagle’s office window this week, or left the succinct, if politically incorrect, answerphone message for her: ‘fucking bitch’. Although there are two or three hundred thousand semi-house-trained infants in the Momentum movement who might well have behaved likewise, I suppose.
Feelings are running a little high across the political spectrum, aren’t they? This is becoming the Summer of Visceral Loathing. Great news if you’re a journalist, frankly. Less good news if you’re a member of the Labour party. I am not absolutely sure that I still am, as I was suspended a while back for having suggested that some Muslims aren’t too keen on Jews. But my subs are still being deducted, I note.
The point of remaining part of this doubly hijacked rabble (first by the Blairites, now by the nutters) is moot, however. What on earth can be gained? It will surely never win an election again. It does not know who it represents and its vote is evaporating gradually, from the north downwards. It’s part of the general realignment of world politics, for sure, and the retreat and philosophical confusion of social democratic parties. But that is given added hilarity over here by the sheer ineptitude of Labour and its insoluble problem.
The leader, Mr Corbyn, does not have the support of the Parliamentary Labour Party. The Parliamentary Labour Party does not have the support of the activists. The activists do not remotely have the support of Labour voters. And there is nothing Angela Eagle can do to square that circle.
Eagle, sobbing like a ninny, announced her intention to stand against Corbyn a few weeks back. So a leadership election between Forrest Gump and Tinkerbell. But then, with that respect for democracy which has always been a hallmark of the people’s party, the PLP tried to stop Jeremy Corbyn having his name on the ballot. They failed — and rightly so. For once the idiot holds the moral high ground: he was voted in overwhelmingly — largely by those relentlessly involved middle-class people who paid three quid apiece to capture what was once the party of the working class.
But even here there is a problem for Eagle and her cack-handed plotters. At least Corbyn knows what he stands for, as do Momentum. Post-Marxist idiocies, yes. Idiocies which were out of date in 1980, yes. Idiocies and a loathing of almost everything the UK stands for, yes. But it is a world view, and one which might accord with a good 7 to 8 per cent of the population, from Muswell Hill to Hove (missing out most of the bits in between). The rest of them don’t seem to stand for anything at all.
Eagle has attacked Corbyn primarily for having failed to have campaigned with sufficient vigour during the referendum. This facile observation lies close to the root of Eagle’s misapprehension. The people of England and Wales did not vote to leave the EU because they were disappointed with Jeremy’s performance during the campaign. If Jezza — or the lamentable Eagle — had been right there on their doorsteps, hopping up and down with EU fervour, they would still have voted Leave. And that’s because, for the poorest sectors of the country, and of the Leave vote, one issue mattered above all others: immigration. Not a dislike of immigrants, as both Eagle and Corbyn would portray it, but a concern about the levels of immigration to this country, and the changes made to their communities as a consequence, and their wages being undercut and schools crowded or full of kids who don’t speak English — all the stuff which Eagle and a majority of the PLP would denounce as being the product of bigotry, pure and simple.
There are only a handful of Labour MPs — and among them John Mann has been the most voluble and effective — who resist this easy depiction of the party’s core vote. The Blairites and the Brownites are every bit as signed up to the concept of untrammelled mass immigration. It was, after all, they who first introduced this policy to a grateful nation. At least Corbyn, at the back of his mind, probably has some vestigial tail of Marxism wagging away, reminding him that the free movement of labour and capital is not always an unvarnished delight.
So almost none of them has what it takes simply to retain Labour’s rapidly dwindling vote outside London, still less the wherewithal to start winning back a few votes from Ukip and the Tories. The vast bulk of the PLP are every bit as averse to the wishes of their voters on this crucial issue as is Corbyn. And in those areas where Labour does do well — inner London, Brighton — Corbyn is a far more attractive prospect to the voters than Angela Eagle.
What happens next should keep us all laughing for a long time to come. The PLP would very much like Corbyn to get the hell out of the party and take his-Momentum friends with him. But the trouble is, his Momentum friends now are the party — and yet in electoral terms a fringe, a rump, of scant importance aside from in the capital. So there is no reason why Corbyn should stand down or decamp. Which leaves the rest of the PLP with the option of leaving and forming a new party — with all the money and most of the TUC support residing with Forrest Gump. And with no clear idea of the direction in which they intend to travel.