Kit Knightly – Off Guardian March 15, 2019
Interesting trends last weekend show that Jess Phillips MP is now the establishment pick to replace Corbyn as leader of the Labour party.
Firstly, this interview appeared in The Times (registry required) on March 9th: “Jess Phillips: ‘I think I’d be a good prime minister’”. It’s a pretty glowing write-up, considering it appeared in The Times, which is essentially the Daily Mail with an Oxford scholarship.
In the interview, Phillips does virtually nothing but criticise her own party. There are passing words about the Tories, but the vast majority of her ire is aimed squarely at the left. She says Momentum is full of people who never have to worry about money, that Marxists are all misogynists and that Corbyn think’s he’s “perfect” because he won’t admit he’s a sexist antisemite.
In short, she props up an endless line of easy targets and knocks them down with an efficient vulgarity. Insulting Corbyn, Chris Williamson, and the entirety of Liverpool Wavertree CLP in the process.
She, of course, has nothing but glowing things to say about The Independent Group and Tom Watson. Declaring her love for Luciana Berger, and how she cried when he heard about the “terrible abuse” she had suffered and the “bullying” of Berger’s CLP when they held a vote of no confidence in her.
The interview is laced all through with everything wrong with modern politics – an obsession with gender issues and identity politics, along with a disdain for ideology. All in all, it’s just more of the same.
But this was just the beginning.
Once the interview was published the “liberals” came out in force to promote the glorified Hello! article as if it was some sort of hard-hitting political manifesto.
Jonathan Freedland, never shy of heaping exultant prose on the mediocre and undeserving, went with this
In this terrific interview, you realise that @jessphillips has that quality – really rare in a politician – that engenders genuine public affection and therefore trust. Mo Mowlam had it and Jess Phillips has it by the bucketload. https://t.co/fcNAfUNWxb
— Jonathan Freedland (@Freedland) March 9, 2019
Whilst the forgettable Miliband went with:
This is a great interview with @jessphillips. Clear and principled. Times should take it out from behind pay wall as a public service. Jess Phillips. “I think I’d be a good prime minister’https://t.co/8927pIi2Zo
— David Miliband (@DMiliband) March 9, 2019
Even a Tory MP, Nick Boles, was spreading purple prose over the information super-highway:
— Nick Boles MP (@NickBoles) March 9, 2019
Could you even imagine a Tory MP saying anything 1/1000th as flattering about Corbyn? Shouldn’t a Labour MP being roundly praised by The Times, Tory MPs and neo-liberal vultures like Miliband be a cause for concern?
It didn’t end there.
Just the previous day Phillips had a column published in the The Guardian, and then on Sunday the 10th this nauseating offering in the Independent, headlined: “Only Jess Phillips can save the Labour Party – Corbyn would be mad to let her go”
It contains some sentiments that will take your breath away by the shear weight of delusion:
In an interview with The Times, the Brummie Dorothy Parker scattergunned the zingers.
It is only March, but this is clearly the front-runner for “Worst paragraph of the year”:
The most instinctively gifted communicator of the age, she might do here what the young Democrat megastar Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is doing in the US. She could electrify centre-left politics. She could be the lightning bolt that revives it from the stasis in which the dismal decade of Blair-Brown feuding left it.
Even if you put much stock in “AOC”, and frankly I don’t, comparing her and Jess Philips is patently absurd. For one thing. Ocasio-Cortez at least spends most of her time attacking the other side. Something which Phillips has failed at miserably.
The sudden push to force Jess Phillips on to the Left as our new “woman of people” did not go down well. Partly because, as with so many media-launches recently, it has the air of fakeness about it, but mostly because people really don’t like being abused.
You’re not going to win working class support by calling all Momentum members champagne socialists.
You’re not going to win Corbyn supporters over by calling them racists. Or sexists.
You’re not going to convince poor people that austerity is OK by claiming their “class politics are old fashioned”.
You’re just going to piss them off.
Predictably, there was some backlash, mainly aimed at the idea that Phillips was some kind of survivor of a gritty life on the never-never, when in reality her mum had a very good upper-middle-class career.
Inveterate opportunist Chuka Umunna gleefully saw a chance to get the boot in on “old fashioned” politics, Corbyn and Labour’s “army of keyboard warriors”.
All of these, oddly enough, were written and published within 24 hours of the original interview. It very much had the feeling of media rallying around “their guy”.
So, that said, maybe we should take a look a the record of the next “people’s champion”:
In 2015 she took part in Harriet Harman’s craven abstention on the welfare bill. This vote enabled austerity to continue, who knows exactly how many have suffered.
In 2015 she backed Yvette Cooper for the leadership. She has since suggested the fact Cooper, Kendall and (later) Eagle all lost is because the left has a “problem with women”.
In 2016 she took part in the PLP attempted “coup”. She was one of the mass-resignations from the Labour front bench in an effort to force Corbyn to resign, and then naturally voted against Corbyn in the no-confidence vote.
She backed Angela Eagle for Labour leader in the shortest, saddest, leadership campaign of all time. When Eagle pulled out Phillips claimed Labour was full of sexists. She then backed Owen Smith (I don’t know if she said he was a sexist or not). In the same interview she said she might well resign if Corbyn won (she didn’t).
She voted in favour of spending £200 BILLION replacing Trident. A machine that has never been used and, if used, would set the world on fire.
She’s a member of the Labour Friends of Israel.
Oh, she also voted against an investigation into the Iraq war. I don’t know why, maybe investigations are sexist too.
That’s her career. Short, and not that distinguished. Just about what you’d expect from a “centrist” back-bench MP of four years standing.
So why is she famous?
Well, mostly because she says inappropriate things. This is tolerated by the media, of course, though they would never do the same for Corbyn or his allies (remember the fuss over “stupid woman” nonsense). She is portrayed as the “ordinary MP who tells it like it is”,when really she’s just crass and insulting:
She infamously went off on one about “knifing [Corbyn] in the front” and later claimed to have told Dianne Abbott to “fuck off”, which was apparently very brave (although Abbott insists it never even happened).
Lying about being rude to make yourself look cool is, I suppose, a bit better than actually being rude.
Her first real “claim to fame” was receiving “600 rape threats” on twitter. Though there’s no (publicly available) evidence this ever actually happened. This claim has been used, by both Phillips and other MPs and journalists, to call for a “crackdown” on social media, and totally destroy online anonymity.
That’s literally all she’s known for. That’s her career. And yet suddenly she’s Labour’s leader in waiting?
How did that happen?
Well, partly through a process of elimination. Five prominent Labour MPs have already lost leadership elections to Corbyn. They’re out. Eight much-less prominent Labour MPs just resigned the whip to form their absurd business (it’s not a political party). They’re definitely out. Tom Watson is a slimy careerist who won’t risk his position to make a run for leadership (yet). Options are thin on the ground.
Enter Jess Phillips.
She backs Trident and Austerity and Israel. She hates Corbyn and Williamson and Leftists in general. She doesn’t believe in class politics or ideology, but she does talk about gender all the time, and says “fuck” a lot, in a midlands accent no less, so she’s definitely hip and cool and down with the kids.
The Times Magazine is clearly at the head of this push – having previously done a glossy interview with Luciana Berger (just last week), where she accused Labour – again – of being institutionally antisemitic. (Phillips mentioned in her interview that Berger’s interview made her cry). They then had an interview with Stephen Kinnock and his wife on Sunday 10th, just a day after Phillips’ was published.
It seems The Times is willing to give column inches to any Labour MP willing to insult and undermine their leader, and is determined to try and tell the public which politicians are the “trendy” ones. To bring back that “cool Britannia” New Labour image. To force us to like them by clamouring about how progressive and normal and popular they are.
They’re not popular, of course. But they are firmly in the middle of the road. Sitting on a fence. Eating white bread. They are centrists to the bone and they’re running out of cards to play. That Phillips is their best hope betrays that desperation.