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Jeremy Corbyn will purge Labour of troublesome MPs – without getting blood on his hands

Henry II was a complicated chap. His anger at the disloyal behaviour of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Beckett, was all the more painful because of the close friendship they had once shared. But that was before Henry decided it would be a wheeze to make Thomas the most senior churchman in the kingdom. Did he get Beckett’s gratitude? Did he buggery.

And as we all know, there then followed history’s biggest “Who? Me?” claim of injured innocence. A group of knights, aware of how much a thorn in their king’s side Beckett had become, took matters into their own hands. After Beckett’s murder, Henry seems to have been genuinely grief-stricken by his former friend’s fate, but has never, in the intervening millennium, totally convinced historians that his hands were as clean as he claimed at the time.

The art of subtly encouraging your followers to carry out your bidding unasked has become one of politics’ darkest arts. Jeremy Corbyn genuinely seems to be uninterested in having his critics in the Parliamentary Labour Party deselected as Labour candidates; he’s said so repeatedly, so it must be true.

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