IIf you want to depress the state of politics, go to Twitter and search for Jess Phillips. Last Monday, the Labor MP for Birmingham Yardley appeared in the House of Commons debate on the immigration bill. The house was largely empty – "The reason why I was allowed to speak for so long is that not so many people were there to talk," she says a few days later – and made a witty, sensible speech about being a matter of course and yet a way that hurt you for a time when it was normal for MPs to easily defend Labor values.
She began dabbling in the absurd new conservative scale of "skills" that calls anyone under 30 years old "unskilled labor." That would be news, she said dispassionately to the nurses, nurses and teachers in her constituency and across the country. To show how disconnected the Tories are, she went on to talk about the lesson: "I thought I met some fine people here before arriving, but actually I met people who eat olives." Since then Election in 2015, she said that she had found true wealth, people whose salaries were inconceivable, "with literally no identifiable skills, not even one". People she would not trust to hold her pint because they would not do it right.
Their policy has been fundamental: one of the salient features of the last decade of political discourse is that it has become routine to earn wealth and value by classifying people in poverty as a spectrum between "vulnerable" and "vulnerable" "Feckless" and rich people by definition superior. It was remarkable how funny it was. I can not remember a time when I laughed aloud during a parliamentary debate. She takes this and speaks with me from her constituency office in Birmingham without false modesty. "Before PMQs and the fall statement, there are a lot of serious jokes that have died – every chancellor seems to want, as if the top buzz of business would have the shots. Normally this is not a humor. "
The line about the olives is so good that it sounds like they've written a script, but that's not their way: it had only three bullet points on a spine. What really made her speech powerful, though, was not only funny, but the passion that set her off. The brash indignation of a law that ends the freedom of movement and limits visas for EU citizens to those earning more than £ 30,000 excludes many key workers.
It was the speech the country had been waiting for to hit 2m quickly and be covered by the satirical website Poke to Elle. "The reason why there were all these views is that people, even if they disagree, think it's good when people say what they think. Rather than say, migration is good if you experience abuse. Any Member of Parliament who is very much concerned with immigration, which I do, will fear giving the executive the power to change the immigration law without control. "
Thirty-seven-year-old Phillips has always been very unpopular with the Corbyn wing of the Labor Party for obvious reasons, without necessarily being clear. She publicly criticized him in public: She sat comfortably in a TV studio on a sofa and said she did not think he should take the lead. Her attitude was that she was a pragmatist and he simply was not a practical choice. It was irritating because it had this circular logic of the centrist's classic position: "Why is not it a practical choice? Because people will not vote for him. Why do not you vote for him? Because he is not practical. "
Nevertheless, Phillips is not politically a "centrist" – although we could somehow agree on what that means. "I think it's weird why I'm not a fan of Corbyn. I'm really a classic Corbyn fan. Not so much on foreign policy, but I'm on the left, on immigration, on welfare spending, there is very little we can not agree on. "She has friends in different cliques of the Labor Party, on both sides – not the leader of the inner circle of the opposition, but from left to right to right. But she would say to herself, and others tell her that she does not belong to any of these factions. She has never been behind a coup, never pioneered a serious move against Corbyn. Yet she has become a lightning rod because she has criticized this type of Labor MP. She says other MPs are inviting her to speak with her members because their presence is so poisonous to Corbyn loyalists that they will not show up – so there will not be any fighting. "I'm like one of those blue rings in a fish and chip shop that attracts the flies. I will keep people away who will be angry. "
But Phillips is not typical for anyone except herself. "Honestly, I think part of it is that I'm a working-class woman. I've called a class traitor, but the people who say it are mostly not working class. I was never a leader, but I was ready to voice my opinion. And if you say things openly, it's very easy for people to hang their hats on them. "
In this class issue, to which she alluded to the olives, Parliament was quite a challenge for her. She sometimes calls herself a working class, something she never did before. "I thought I did it. Because I sometimes shopped in Waitrose, I thought I was pretty fancy. I realized that I'm basically a laundry maid. Even the middle-class citizens I meet in Parliament who live in London – which I find remarkable, because everyone can afford to live there – seem much, much more bourgeois than me. "
To return to this tricky immigration debate, why was your speech considered treason if it's not something you would not expect from Corbyn himself? Why was the house so empty when the bill is so important? "We were not flogged to be there and many MPs do not even leave their constituencies on a Monday if they are not flogged." The position of Labor was originally in a move that made his left outsiders utterly appalled by the bill. They had technical considerations – they would abstain at the second reading and later table amendments – but it was amazingly reminiscent of the time when Harriet Harman, acting chairman after the resignation of Ed Miliband, contained the social law: it felt as though It completely rejects responsibility, failure of values.
This time around, Diane Abbott, who has spent her life fighting for immigrants' rights, stood up and gave Labor's intention to abstain. "When I came in, someone said, we do not vote against it and I was like, what? But my attention to detail, which is our whip, is that I usually find out when the bell rings. Whether it was anger from Labor MPs or a broader social media storm, but it changed Labor's position as Anna Soubry got up an hour after the debate, they whipped up the bill.
"Morally, I really had trouble containing myself," says Phillips. (In the background, I hear the operation in their constituency office and a surprising amount of screaming.) "That's not Jeremy Corbyn from before. And it's not Diane Abbott from before, but it's probably the two people who made that decision. Diane would never have voted for this bill. I was really sad for her. I was really sad that she was put in this position. This is not to say that she is being overrun by the leadership. But I think maybe they lost their way. "
Since Phillips said that she had ordered Abbott to say goodbye in 2015, and Abbott said it was a fiction, there was no love between the two. But Phillips has no apparent animus over Corbyn. "I can not even say how I feel it now, because the worst thing is, I really do not feel anything."
The atmosphere of an uncharacteristic and uncomfortable compromise, of confusion as the party switches back and forth between principles and tactics, transcends this one account. "To be honest, Jeremy has sold Corbyn to many people. And there is a slight dishonesty about what he might actually think. Because he could not have opposed the Immigration Act, let's face it. It's sad … and a product of a hanging parliament. Everyone gets a bit freelance. So you have 650 freelance MPs, and it does not feel like a team goes over the wall together. "
Of course you have to take that with a pinch of salt; Phillips never had an observable loyalty to Corbyn's leadership. Older sources in the Labor and Momentum, however, suggest that there is an active strategy of soft whipping so that backbenchers can go their own way and nothing that ever suspects will ever get stuck with Corbyn. Of course, this is more about Brexit than about a hung parliament. The policy of pushing for general elections, or failing to engage in a referendum with a remaining option, looks as if it is inglorious, and most vocal members of the Labor Frontbench are against a second vote , In the absence – and if a general election is unlikely – a variant of the Brexit of May or a no-deal Brexit becomes inevitable. Given that these choices range from unpopular to catastrophic, no one really wants their fingerprints on them.
Phillips is in favor of a final word, though she's not actually part of the People's Vote team. "I'm not a fanatic. I did not come to the referendum the day after the referendum. It was only in the last six months when we came to a dead end in Parliament. I realized that there was no passage. Once we got her deal, Theresa May really united the land against the deal. And I trust the people who live in my constituency more than the people I'm currently sitting in. They are really more meaningful and pragmatic. MEPs like to project them as if they were an angry mob. And they really are not. I say that in a deserted place. People are not enthusiastic about it. They do not really talk to me about it, they just treat it like the weather and keep going. "She says that Brexit spontaneously took part in the thousands of talks they and their colleagues held in their constituency before the 2017 election, only twelve times.
Phillips is not confident what this vote would be like: she is worried about "dark forces stirring up dissent". Instead, she fantasizes about a perfect election that would take place in fourteen days and Facebook was shut down: "Turn off the Internet and send everyone a list of facts that are true."
And she can hardly be blind to the so-called risks of right-wing outrage – Jo Cox was a friend of hers, and Phillips is the target of massive Internet abuse. She teeters between waving as nothing – "I do not see the all-encompassing aggression that people tell me they exist" – and expresses real fear: "When my resilience is low, the personal security in my head is always present But even though Jo was killed in her constituency, I feel different when I'm in Birmingham, people know me, I grew up here, I feel protected. "
I heard that it was so hovering that the reason why so many Labor MPs do not want a second referendum is due to the sheer dislike of the first one. The murder of a colleague is not a trivial thing. Phillips is impatient with arguments about the National Department. "I think it's nonsense to say," That's difficult, we should just do light things. "It opposes Brexit because of the auto industry, which has already had incredible success, and its impact on immigration, but it would take more than this crisis to dissuade it from its pragmatism." If it was March 28 and the option was a deal or not a deal, then I would vote for a deal, I would have to do it "but it would be a sad place to land." I wish there was a passionate and passionate approach to looking at data and to hear the different opinions. "
I wonder if this is a long-term leadership offer, and I wonder who she likes to be next in line. She is determined and credible that she does not want the job. it looks too hard for the soul. And around Candidate Raymond or Emily Thornberry – between the two, she would opt for Rayner: "She let me sleep on her floor for the first three weeks that I was in Parliament, and that must count for something."
Despite all that Phillips is a hate figure for the left, she still seems to be on my left. And if there is something for dull people to say, then you do not have to interpret it incessantly. When the day comes, she will support a woman as leader – and it will not be her.