In July this year, the Left of UK Politics was rightly impressed with Mhairi Black’s maiden speech to the House of Commons. One part of that which particularly resonated on social media was her reference to Tony Benn’s “weathercocks and signposts” (6:20 in her speech)
“In politics there are weathercocks and signposts – weathercocks will spin in whatever direction the wind of public opinion may blow them, no matter what principle they may have to compromise.
And there are signposts, signposts which stand true and tall and principled.
Tony Benn was right when he said the only people worth remembering in politics were signposts.”
A round condemnation of MPs who vote according to whatever happens to be popular instead of what they believe to be right – and in particular a condemnation of those Labour MPs who abstained on key issues (as the party whip dictated).
Fast forward to the last few weeks, and many of those same people who celebrated Mhairi Black’s speech, who themselves shared Tony Benn’s words as an example of how an MP should be, are now condemning Labour MPs who disagree with Jeremy Corbyn on a number of divisive issues.
(most notably ISIS / Syria, and what our response should be)
This strikes me as hypocrisy of a rather extreme sort. Even more so when we remember just how incredibly rebellious Jeremy Corbyn himself was as a backbench MP.
For people who four months ago demanded that our MPs stand up and be counted to disparagingly label these MPs ‘Blairites’ and even ‘red Tories’ for doing just that – for, in a word, being signposts – shows a breathtaking lack of self-awareness.
Particularly as the chief argument for why these MPs should be forced to vote against their principles is “most members agree with Corbyn”. Isn’t that ‘being a weathercock’? That was a terrible crime in July.
Either you want our MPs to stand by their principles, or you don’t. It doesn’t magically become okay for them to lack a backbone when their principles clash with yours.