What the Diane Abbott metastorm was really about

Let's call this what it is. It's pretending.

It's not easy being white. Apart from the power, control, jobs and everything, it's a pretty tough life. Every now and then, people make sweeping generalisations about us, as white people, and we're going to have to pretend to be offended, even though we've never really suffered the wrong end of prejudice in our lives.

With the best will in the world, if you're not white, you don't know just how hard that is to fake.

People have told me there was a Twitterstorm about yesterday's comments from Diane Abbott MP. I didn't see such a thing unfolding before me, but then that might be because I don't follow people on Twitter who make a career out of pretending to be upset by things that haven't actually upset them.

I saw a storm about a storm -- a metastorm, maybe. What I have found is a few of the same old faces saying that this was racism, because they decided it was, and ooh wouldn't the lefties have been having kittens if it was the other way around?

Let's call this what it is. It's pretending. It's not genuinely being offended. It's artifice, completely made up in order to get a bit of publicity for people's vexatiously contrarian columns and to get their godawful faces on television.

If you're genuinely wounded by Diane Abbott's comments, I pity you. You're beyond saving. It's a wonder we white people manage to stay in control of everything in the world ever if we're so bloody sensitive -- we should be sitting in a cupboard crying all day about what the nasty lady said about us.

But it's not genuine hurt; it's the sensing of a mistake by a political rival, and the careful depiction of a representation of what these woeful human beings think being offended actually is, in order to capitalise on that.

Those of us on the left who enjoy the physically challenging combination of handwringing and self-flagellation might speculate that, whatever the rights and wrongs of Abbott's tweet, one simply shouldn't generalise about race, or anything like that. Well, as a general rule, that is probably the case. It wasn't the brightest thing for an elected official to say.

However, as far as the miserable, inane, dumbed-down wreck of a political discussion that was the Abbott saga this week, it just goes to show how we still can't be grown-up when talking about issues such as race and racism. A single tweet from an MP, and kaboom -- it's enough to get the same old faces whooping and hollering the same old garbage, the same old lies.

"If it had been the other way around," is the general thrust of these arguments. Well if it had been the other way around, it would have been the other way around. If it had been the other way around, everything would have had to have been the other way around. We would have to be living in a country where black people dominated and white people didn't; where black people had all the jobs but spectacularly untalented black columnists would be writing about how unfair it was, somehow.

As well as all that, you have to suspect that if it had been the other way around, the same faces so outraged and appalled by Abbott's comments would be finding ways to justify what had been said, to claim that it wasn't really all bad.

All this comes in a week when we've been seeing the horribly real consequences of actual racism, with two of the killers of Stephen Lawrence having been brought to justice. This pointless charade about Abbott would be a tacky sideshow at the best of times; in the context of seeing what real racism does, it's even more pathetic.

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Labour MPs pass a vote of no confidence in Jeremy Corbyn – what happens now?

172 no confidence votes to 40 in support of the Labour leader.

Labour MPs have voted that they have no confidence in their leader, Jeremy Corbyn.

Following a secret no confidence ballot, 172 MPs voted that they had no confidence in the Labour leader, to 40 who voted in support. There were 216 votes in total, out of 229 Labour MPs. There were 13 who abstained, and four spoilt ballots. That's a turnout of 95 per cent, with 80 per cent declaring no confidence in their leader.

The motion for a no confidence ballot was tabled by Margaret Hodge MP last week, following the British public voting for Brexit in the EU referendum. Corbyn's detractors accuse him of letting Labour down for failing to campaign successfully for a Remain vote.

The Labour press office comments:

"Following the ballot conducted today, the Parliamentary Labour Party has accepted the following motion:
 
"That this PLP has no confidence in Jeremy Corbyn as Leader of the Parliamentary Labour Party."

The outcome of the ballot comes after a wave of resignations from Corbyn's shadow cabinet, which have been arriving thick and fast since the weekend following the referendum result. It is thought that Corbyn now has yet to fill at least half of the positions in his shadow frontbench. If you're wondering who has resigned, check out our liveblog. And for who's been newly appointed to the shadow cabinet, our list is here.

Corbyn has responded to the outcome, informing his party that he will not stand down:

“In the aftermath of last week’s referendum, our country faces major challenges. Risks to the economy and living standards are growing. The public is divided.

“The Government is in disarray. Ministers have made it clear they have no exit plan, but are determined to make working people pay with a new round of cuts and tax rises.

“Labour has the responsibility to give a lead where the Government will not. We need to bring people together, hold the Government to account, oppose austerity and set out a path to exit that will protect jobs and incomes.

“To do that we need to stand together. Since I was elected leader of our party nine months ago, we have repeatedly defeated the Government over its attacks on living standards.

“Last month, Labour become the largest party in the local elections. In Thursday’s referendum, a narrow majority voted to leave, but two thirds of Labour supporters backed our call for a remain vote.

“I was democratically elected leader of our party for a new kind of politics by 60 per cent of Labour members and supporters, and I will not betray them by resigning. Today’s vote by MPs has no constitutional legitimacy.

“We are a democratic party, with a clear constitution. Our people need Labour party members, trade unionists and MPs to unite behind my leadership at a critical time for our country.”

So what happens now? If any MP wishes to challenge him, they can trigger a leadership contest. To do this, they will have to receive 50 nominations (the support of 20 per cent of Labour MPs and MEPs). Once they formally have this support, they have to write to the party's general secretary, Iain McNicol, announcing their intention to run. My colleague George has the latest on who is likely to challenge Corbyn.

The party rules on whether the incumbent automatically has a place on the leadership ballot are murky. Some believe he doesn't need to amass nominations all over again to stand. Others, particularly his opponents, point to legal advice sought by the party last year that suggests he would have to gain 50 nominations, like his challengers. They are clinging on to this interpretation, because they fear that Corbyn would simply be voted in again by the party's membership, which is significantly more left wing than the parliamentary party.

But even if Corbyn does have to collect this level of support, there's no guarantee that his unpopularity in the PLP would mean he would be unable to make the ballot. He received 36 nominations last time, so his support among MPs is actually up by four, according to the result of the no confidence ballot. Considering his difficulty gaining enough nominations last June (he received his final nomination minutes before the deadline), it is unlikely. But not impossible.

Yet there is equally no certainty that he would win among the membership, which returned him by a landslide last September. Lots of the new members and signed-up supporters are devastated about Brexit, and have been baffled by Corbyn's reticence about campaigning for Remain. (Of course, a cursory glance at his voting record by any of his fans would have proved that he really is the stubborn man of principle they so praise him for being: he has been a steadfast eurosceptic for decades). It's unlikely they wouldn't back him, considering how strongly they voted for him so recently. But, again, not impossible.

Anoosh Chakelian is deputy web editor at the New Statesman.