Just like Great War the massed armies battling for Labour’s future have taken to the trenches for Christmas. Although don’t expect a chorus of silent night and jumpers for goalposts in No Man’s Land.
The usual suspects in the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) have gone quiet as we head into Christmas, but it doesn’t mean that their opposition to the great helmsman is over.
Instead, round three shifts by proxy to the next elections for the general secretary of super union, Unite.
The election has been forced on current incumbent, Len McLuskey, who wanted to extend his term of office through to the general election in 2020 in support of Corbyn, but failed to get the move through his National Executive Committee.
He is being challenged by West Midlands Regional Secretary, Gerard Coyne, who is positioning himself as wanting to withdraw from politicking and get back to wage negotiations. From a region which voted firmly in favour of Leave he is shrewdly asking union members to take back their union.
McLuskey’s team, on the other hand will paint Coyne as the establishment candidate and already there has been talk of enemies at the gate. Either way the poll is likely to become a judgement on the political direction of the Labour Party.
Turnout will be crucial with general secretary elections usually attracting less than 10%. This means a low turnout, where left wing activists are more likely to vote, may hold the sway for McLuskey while any increase in the numbers of ordinary members voting could potentially favour Coyne.
So expect to see both sides slug it out in a very public and potentially brutal campaign in the press and on the shop floor, while MPs keep their heads down, at least for now.
So, why are MPs keeping a low profile? This summer’s leadership election taught the PLP that they tend to get the blame for causing disunity and that until they come up with some bright ideas of their own there is little value in publically opposing Corbyn.
Instead they have embarked on a “give ‘em enough rope” strategy while moderates have quietly gone about tightening their grip on internal party democracy.
It seems to be paying off. Without the oxygen of an election campaign, Corbyn has gone quiet and has even been crowded off the media agenda by Tim Farron. Leading some on his own side to conclude that his silence shows he’s simply not up to the job. Manoeuvres are going on behind the scenes on the assumption that he is unlikely to survive contact with the electorate with chief supporter Diane Abbott effectively giving notice that he has 12 months to turn round the worst polling figures in Labour’s history.
However, finding a candidate from the left who can command even a fraction of Corbyns popularity amongst party members is proving an uphill struggle, which brings Unite’s support, financially and politically, into sharp focus as Corbyn’s only serious institutional backer.