1. Both sides had a lot of time to prepare
Publication of the EHRC report has been in everyone's grid for many months, and always had the potential to be a pivotal event. We know Starmer and his people think in these terms, witness how superbly well-prepared they were on the very instant GE 2019 was seen to be lost (several days before polling, maybe more). Likewise, Team Corbyn has never disbanded and will have been just as seized with the potential of EHRC day.
2. Both sides have a big agenda
We've been surmising that Corbyn may have trashed the entire Labour brand: polling data and a sense of history probably reinforces this to Starmer in spades. From the very start he has been looking for opportunities to make it obvious that he is the anti-Corb: but that's just a part of it. Additionally, he wants to expunge the Left from the Party: no mean ambition, given the left's tenacity and how much the last six years has rallied them within the Labour Party itself, with (at one point) tremendous morale and impetus (not to say momentum ...).
On the other side, being the narcissist (© Elby-t-B 2020) he is, Corbyn is extremely keen to self-justify and exculpate. But it's far more than that. Much of the Left that still absolutely, religiously dotes on him, see him as their rallying point. (Frankly, like Christ, Mohammed and Wittgenstein he'll still be that, long after he's gone.) They want his named cleared so that he can continue as the grit in their oyster until their pearl reaches critical mass.
Both sides want to use the Report, the pivotal 'predictable moment' of 2020, to further these aims. How could they not?
3. The EHRC gave both sides (some) advance notice
Lots, for Starmer: and he knows how to use it. Maybe a lot less for Corbyn - a disadvantage, for sure: but his people are quick-studies and would have mastered it very quickly indeed. Both teams were absolutely primed and ready for the media from 10:00 Thursday onwards. They'd certainly be getting all the airtime they wanted.
4. Corbyn is totally predictable ...
5. ... ergo, a sucker for bear-traps
Cummings is the one that has deployed this to most dramatic effect, to date, in the run-up to GE2019. But now Team Starmer has, too.
6. The Report contained a bear-trap!
And here it is:
Article 10 will protect Labour Party members who, for example, make legitimate criticisms of the Israeli government, or express their opinions on internal Party matters, such as the scale of antisemitism within the Party, based on their own experience and within the law.
Team Starmer must immediately have recognised that Team Corbyn would highlight this to him, and that he'd not be able to resist using it as a shield from behind which he could make the extremely, studiedly point remarks he did. And here's where the mind-games start. Would Team Corbyn let their man make such a blatant provocation on Day Zero? Many on the Corbyn-supporting Left have expressed surprise and dismay that he would do such an insensitive, tactically naive thing.
But that's after he's had his legs chopped off. Would they have been equally dismayed in vaccuo? I suspect not. Rather, I believe Team Corbyn thought they were being tactically adroit, and were looking for the maximum defensible provocation to perpetrate on Day Zero, in order to set the platform-for-comeback as far above the level of abject apology as possible. With the Article 10 paragraph in hand - plus the EHRC's diktat that the LOTO should play no part in cases of individual party discipline, they assumed they were bullet-proof, from behind the cover of the EHRC report itself. They'd already been told the EHRC was not calling for his head on a pike and nor, it seemed from their 'negotiations' with Team Starmer, would the boss. Could their man possibly be disciplined? What, being an ordinary Party member, would be the charge against him? Starmer could dismiss a member of his ShadCab; but the Party couldn't discipline an ordinary member sheltering behind Art 10. They felt they were staying just about on the safe side of the line.
Corbyn himself would be champing at the bit, up for anything they were willing to let him say.
And so, into the bear-trap he threw himself.
7. Team Starmer predicted this to a fine degree of accuracy
... at very least, as one of the possibilities. (Who knows, they may even have fed the Article 10 stuff to the EHRC ...) They know their man! Who in the Labour Party doesn't?
The trap snaps shut.
8. Immediately, everyone sees what must happen next
Corbyn was lured into issuing a mortal insult (as hastily defined by Starmer). In a practised move Starmer took off his gauntlet, slapped Corbyn swiftly across the mug with it and threw it on the floor, reaching at once for the duelling pistols. Corbyn's seconds rush in, fearing that there is no way to avoid a fatal showdown. "It's not an insult", they shriek, "he's just a very silly boy! Where's your sense of proportion? Resort to brute force isn't how lawyers settle disputes!" And they hope Starmer will think better of what he's done, or notice that his pistol may not be terribly reliable.
9. And indeed it must
Starmer has a machine that does his bidding - rather willingly, since they are all on the same mission. They couldn't but avail themself of the bear-trap, not least because it pivots around a blatant, incendiary provocation. They'll seek to finish Corbyn off, and dare the Left to follow him out of the door.
* * * * *
Is the outcome wholly predictable? No more so than any duel, really - and Starmer's pistol does seem a bit suspect if Corbyn were to litigate. I said that the Left is hoping this will all go away. More than hope, though: they're desperate, because there's a massive downside, namely that Corbyn sets up a new party. Much as they've toyed with that idea for months, they've always come down on the side of Stay and Fight. They know their history, when it comes to breakaway parties in the UK.
UPDATE: after early exchanges on the Today prog on Friday, when Starmer showed his fangs again, Team Corbyn are being studiously emollient. Clearly coordinated. "We're backing off, now Starmer must back off" - an attempt to get away with the provocation. One key will be what they can get their man Corbyn to say. It'll need to be abject in the extreme, positively and personally humiliating - indeed, probably scripted by the other side. If he's as obdurate as he's been throughout the whole five-year anti-semitism saga, he won't retract. And if Starmer remembers his history - the failure to make Saddam Hussein personally abase himself before Norman Schwarzkopf - he will only accept something ingeniously destructive for the morale of the Left.
UPDATE 2: we always knew the press read C@W ... Elby's verdict of a day or so back, now retailed by Rarely-original Rawnsley in the Observer
Mr Corbyn’s vanity simply will not allow him to accept responsibility. Many things have been said about his character over the years, but one thing has not been said enough: he is a narcissist.