“It was absolutely mental,” one senior Labour MP reflected when Guido asked how Monday night’s PLP meeting went. “It was feral,” reveals a second backbencher: “Shambolic“. A relative newcomer comments: “People who have been around for a lot longer said it was the worst PLP meeting they have ever been to.” This is what happened at this extraordinary meeting of Labour MPs, told by the people in the room.
John McDonnell’s u-turn on the fiscal charter was the main item on the agenda. It was labelled “a huge joke” by a livid John Mann and criticised at length by Chris Leslie, McDonnell’s predecessor as Shadow Chancellor: “He went on for ages“. “Chris is f**king awesome,” texts a Blairite ally. McDonnell insisted in reponse that “we need to cement ourselves as the anti-austerity party”, but according to one MP, “Jeremy said nothing. No response”. “MPs will abstain,” another furious backbencher tells Guido.
Moderate MP Ian Austin “stood up and said Jeremy should start acting like the Leader of the Opposition and not like a student union president”, reports a colleague. Grimsby MP Melanie Onn launched a thinly-veiled attack on Diane Abbott over her “online trolling”: “She didn’t name Diane but everyone knew who she meant”. Emily Thornberry angrily told off her fellow MPs for texting journalists details of what was being said.
Mary Creagh launched a broadside against Momentum, Corbyn’s Militant-lite campaign group. Communist-sympathising Richard Burgon responded on behalf of the leader attempting to allay fears: “He got told to shut up and sit down,” says one observer: “He is a f**king d*ckhead”.
Birmingham Yardley MP Jess Phillips, scourge of Diane, demanded the party debate Syria rather than simply be ordered to vote against action. Emma Reynolds stood up and blasted the leadership for fixing the Shadow Cabinet position on the party NEC for Hilary Benn rather than a woman. She was joined by Angela Smith in attacking Corbyn over his jobs for the boys.
Corbyn’s spokesman told the BBC the meeting was “warm” and that Jeremy was “well received“. What would have to happen for them to admit it was hostile?