francis beckett

The Chilcot Report is a timely reminder of why Angela Eagle must not become Labour leader.

If Corbyn has to go, the Party must find someone not tainted with the worst of the Blair years. For Eagle to replace him, after the PR firm Portland Communications, run by Blair adviser Tim Allan, has been running crude stunts designed to destablise Corbyn, would make a mockery of everything we have been through since Blair went.

Eagle was an MP in 2003 and voted for war in Iraq.

She will tell us that, with hindsight, she would have voted differently. But she didn't need hindsight.

 Everyone knew the dossier identifying WMD had been sexed up. We knew that the UN weapons inspectors had found no weapons of mass desruction.  Tony Blair claims not to have known that the British army did not have the right equipment, but he had only to read the newspapers to find out. We all knew that Blair had made a promise to President Bush, though it took Chilcot to give us chapter and verse.

Labour MPs with integrity, like Robin Cook and John Denham, didn't need hindsight. They sacrificed their careers to vote against the war. A million marchers in London (I was one of them) didn't need hindsight.

Neither did Angela Eagle. She just needed courage and integrity.

Angela Eagle will not harness the hope and optimism that elected Corbyn. She is a dull, timeserving politician, tainted with her loyalty to Blair.  If we have to replace Corbyn, we must do better than that.

Full disclosure. In the mid eighties I worked closely with both the Eagle twins, and disliked them. I had just gone freelance, and two of my earliest clients were the health service trade union COHSE and a transport lobbying organisation.

At COHSE everyone was kind and welcoming except Angela Eagle, who was cold and aloof. The transport lobbying group was the most unpleasant client I ever had, and Maria Eagle was the most disloyal, untruthful colleague I ever had.  Ironically, her boss, also an inveterate plotter, was Jon Lansman, the man who now runs the Corbyn support organisation Momentum.

My friend and colleague David Hencke tells me he finds the Eagle twins likeable. They may have changed. Or they may be charming to the lobby journalist whose goodwill they need, but contemptuous of the paid hack who works for them. Ether way, it doesn't matter. We don't necessarily need a likeable leader. But we do need a leader with integrity if Corbyn has to go.

Does Corbyn have to go?

I hoped Corbyn would kick the Bennite addiction to sectarian in-fighting, so the appointment of Seumas Milne as his communications chief was a bad omen. Seumas is intelligent, knowledgeable, passionate and often right. But he's narrow and sectarian, never happier than when rooting out political heresy.

Corbyn didn't put his back into the Remain campaign.  He could not have swung it, whatever he did, and our exit from Europe - let's not forget - is David Cameron's fault, for he called a referendum as a short term fix for the divisions in the Conservative Party. But Corbyn should have been seen to try harder. 

Although he isn't in the slightest anti-Semitic, his ham-fisted handling of the allegations was a present to those who wanted to smear him.

His clumsy attempt to tough it out when most of his shadow cabinet resigned, offering a photo opportunity with his new shadow cabinet and then publicly regretting it, was a crudely amateurish bit of public relations. And although anti-Corbyn Labour MPs behaved like schoolyard bullies, retreating into his laager with his own people was not the answer.

Corbyn either has to go, or to get a new strategy.  If he has to go, we must find someone better than Angela Eagle to replace him.