A brief introduction first for those of you wise enough not to spend time at the weekend following politics on Twitter.
Labour MP Chuka Umunna gave a speech in which he used a common literary allusion, dating back to William Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, calling on Jeremy Corbyn to “call off the dogs” in Labour’s internal infighting.
Cue Corbyn supporters responding claiming that it was a literal reference to themselves as being dogs and loudly tweeting outrage. Chief amongst these was Owen Jones, despite the fact that he himself has used the dogs phrase metaphorically in the past.
Cue next outrage at the outrage, something which could almost be Twitter’s mission statement on a bad day.
But there’s something of more significance here too. A big unknown at the moment is how, if some Labour MPs were to split, Liberal Democrats would react. The closer the cooperation and the less the competition the more likely such a split is to be successful. But would this happen?
There is, after all, plenty that many Liberal Democrats may dislike about splitting Labour MPs. Take Chuka Umunna as an example. His dreadful error of judgement over a smear campaign against a Liberal Democrat a few years back is something I wrote about on this site:
Some of his Labour colleagues took the right and brave decision to tell the truth to the police, helping secure the conviction of Miranda Grell. Umunna? He so staunchly defended Grell that he even lashed out at a Lib Dem blogger for simply factually reporting the arrest as “base politics of the worst kind”. No, the base politics of the worst kind were Grell’s disgusting smearing of her Liberal Democrat opponent as a paedophile and someone with real leadership ability, and not just a Wikipedia entry talking about it, would have behaved very differently.
Consider more broadly applicable factors such as voting records on Iraq or civil liberties, and it’s easy to see why splitting Labour MPs may find a hostile reaction from many Liberal Democrats.
Except that I’ve noticed a significant warming of fellow Lib Dems to such Labour MPs in response to the sort of absurd attacks on them as the one this weekend.
The more ludicrous and the more nasty the attacks, the easier it will be for Lib Dems to swallow the past and find new common ground.
Corbyn’s fans are doing his opponents a favour.