In a world of political uncertainly, some of the goings-on within the political classes are refreshingly stable and predictable, and one of those is the steady progress of semi-detached MP John Woodcock towards the exit door and a beckoning career with the media set. Having already been suspended from the Labour Party, he has now very publicly resigned from it, to the surprise of no-one at all.
In his resignation letter, Woodcock tells Jeremy Corbyn he is quitting “following your refusal to appoint an independent investigator to rule on my disciplinary [case] and in the light of clear evidence that the process has been manipulated for factional purposes”. The case to which he refers concerns allegations that he harassed a former female aide.
Woodcock claims he is not resigning merely to dodge the bullet: “It is not credible to expect a fair hearing in these circumstances. I strongly deny the charge made against me but am committed to the complaint being thoroughly and fairly investigated. I will now seek to refer myself to an independent process so the case can be properly heard”.
But this has been coming for some time. For all his protests, Woodcock has no room to call unfairness on the Labour leadership, having engaged in a long-running campaign of petulant dissent against Corbyn’s leadership. Jezza’s early olive branch proffered to the Barrow and Furness MP over protecting jobs in the area in the event of abandoning the Trident nuclear deterrent brought only claims that Corbyn was insufficiently bellicose.
Last year, when the General Election was announced, Woodcock told very publicly that he would stand for re-election, but then kicked the party leadership in the teeth once more by saying he “will not countenance ever voting to make Jeremy Corbyn Britain’s prime minister”. His constituency party, which voted for Jezza in the 2016 leadership contest, has recently complained about him to Labour’s NEC, and wants him replaced.
His disdain for many Labour members - those he smears as “hard left”, using the terminology imported from Fox News Channel (fair and balanced my arse) - was typified by his publicising visits to Saudi Arabia and breaking bread with a Government that has an appalling human rights record, treats women disgracefully, carries on destructive wars that bring death and mass starvation, but … buys lots of weapons from the UK.
Sitting as an Independent MP, Woodcock, whose effectiveness has been such that he has taken a majority of more than 5,200 in 2010 and turned it into one of little more than 200 last year, will not be representing Barrow and Furness beyond the next General Election, and thus his real commitment to the area and its voters.
No, John Woodcock is heading slowly but inexorably towards the land of well-remunerated think tank sinecures, broadcast and radio punditry, newspaper columns, and magazine features. He has been on that trajectory for some time; trying to blame Corbyn for this movement is just so much petulance and cant.
The reality is that Woodcock will leave Labour, and not, as he has claimed, the other way round. Jezza’s reply - “Jeremy thanks John for his service to the Labour party” - is all that needs to be said. He is already yesterday’s politician.