So labour have elected Jeremy Corbyn as its leader (again). However while he’s wildly popular with his party base, many others in the party, notably the PLP have serious misgivings and perhaps for good reason. Hence a split in the labour party is now a very real possibility.
Take for example Corbyn’s stance on Brexit. He’s spent most of the last few months going around apologising for the swivel eyed loons who voted for Brexit, trying to portray it as a revolt against globalisation. Well I don’t remember once hearing that word mentioned in the campaign, I seemed to remember a lot of xenophobic screaming about migrants and some BS lies about billions to the NHS. And while yes it is known that many neo-fascist parties are opposed to globalisation (not because they want more socialism, quite the opposite!), that still doesn’t make them you’re friends. However, it does hint that Corbyn secretly did vote for Brexit and he has no intention of opposing it.
This puts him at odds with most of the country’s left leaning voters and indeed most of his own party, who tended to vote remain. It means that he’s chasing the votes of the 37% of the electorate who voted leave. However the Tories and UKIP have that voting block pretty much tied up. Meanwhile the 63% of the country who were either denied the opportunity to vote, or voted remain are left with nobody to speak for them. From a party politics point of view, this is a disastrous strategic mistake.
Left wing “Muesli Brexiters” as I prefer to call them (like Corbyn or George Galloway) are few in number, because most on the left are all too aware that leaving the EU is throwing the baby out with the bath water. The Tories will now use it as an excuse to roll back all sorts of legislation protecting the environment, workers rights, pensions and access to welfare. All while trying to turn the country into a low tax haven (oh btw, the tax codes of tax havens do not make it cheaper to live there, often VAT rates are high, flat taxes dis-proportionally hit the poor and the general costs of living are high). And Brexit has given comfort to bigots to go out and hurl racist abuse. It has also made it harder to tackle many of the world’s pressing global issues, which require co-operation and collaboration, not division and selfishness.
To draw an analogy, imagine Corbyn’s trying to sell burgers at an old firm game. Rather than parking at the Celtic or neutral supporters entrance, he instead drives his green coloured biofuel powered burger van down to the Rangers end and tries to sell them Hipster Vegan burgers made of Tofu. Chances are he’ll do very little business, get accused of being a Papist sent to poison them and earn a plastic fork in the eye for his trouble.
So far this lack of action, either during the referendum or afterwards, hasn’t really eroded his support base, but inevitably it will. We’re in a sort of “phony war” stage on Brexit, the really bad news hasn’t arrived yet. Inevitably once it does arrive and people start losing their jobs, their rights and employment protections, many of those who just voted for him as labour leader will realise he intends to do nothing to help them (because ultimately he wants Brexit). Obviously at that point he may not be so popular. But understandably many in the party don’t want to wait for that. As it means labour essentially sitting on its hands through one of the most important periods in recent UK politics.
Corbyn’s supporters have tried to portray anyone who opposes him within the party of being Blairites and left wingers in name only. While this is a fair point when it comes to the likes of Alastair Campbell or Peter Mandelson, but many in the party, including Owen Smith or Tom Watson are certainly not Blairites. And while they might not be as left wing as Corbyn’s its not his left wingness that worries them, its his unelectability. As a comedian joked at the Fringe, he’s turned PMQ’s into Gardener’s question time. “Prime Minster I have a letter from a David from Rotherham and he has problems with his NHS services…..and his Azaleas”.
The PLP are all too aware that the majority of the public just aren’t that turned on by Corbyn’s policies, poll after poll and meetings in their constituency offices has told them that. And regardless of their own views on the matter (its not as if they have to agree with every policy coming out of labour HQ), they know that the UK’s first past the post system makes trying to win an election on such a platform very difficult, if not impossible. Ultimately the PLP’s concern is more a matter of job security that ideology. They reckon he’s going to cost them their seats and that they will lose those seats to UKIP and Tories.
One of the dangers for the Tories with pulling the pin on the Brexit hand grenade was always the risk that in the fallout that followed a hard left leader would come to power and he’d be then in the position to roll back market capitalism and run the non-doms out of town. However I would argue this is now very unlikely to happen. Corbyn has positioned himself such that come the next election the hard Brexiters will pivot towards UKIP, while those who want to see it stopped or a 2nd vote (on the terms of it or to rejoin the EU) will pivot towards the lib dems, greens and in Scotland the SNP.
Now the irony is that the Tories having gone to all this trouble to kill off UKIP, its quite possible UKIP will emerge from the next election stronger than ever. Ordinarily this would spell defeat for the Tories, the FPP system meaning they should lose seats to labour. But Corbyn’s labour party will also be haemorrhaging votes (he’s already down 9% in the polls, despite all the problems in the Tory party). Consequently the balance of probability is (and I’ve seen polling analysis which suggests this is now the most likely outcome) the Tories will still be the largest party, although they may fall sort of a majority. Note that as they’d then have to go into coalition with either UKIP or the lib dems, that would all but guarantee a 2nd vote on Europe in some way shape or form.
Corbyn’s supporters will say, but the media have been against him from day one. And yes, I agree, they have not given him fair treatment. If he rescued a baby from a burning building, they’d accuse him of being anti-fire and taking jobs away from hard-working firemen. But he has sort of made things easy for them, what with going around in dodgy tracksuits and that whole traingate business. If you lean over in front of your enemy and he kicks you up the arse, I mean what did you think was going to happen?
And if Corbyn thinks the media are being hard on him now, wait until we are in an actual election campaign. While inevitably Brexit and its fallout will impact on the next election, it will not be the terms under which it is fought. No, the next election will be fought on the unsuitability of Corbyn for the post of PM. The Tories will make sure of that. I mean look at what they did to Ed Miliband and all they had to go on was him looking awkward for a split second while eating a bacon roll. Can you imagine what they’re going to do to Corbyn? What the labour party members decided to do last week was vote to let an old guy get dragged into the street and watch him get beaten senseless for the next few years.
After Corbyn looses the next election, the balance of probability is that the Blairites will take over again and they’ll change the voting rules to make damn sure this never happens again. They’ll pivot the party to the right and labour will essentially become the equivalent of the democrats in America. Alternatively the party splits, either before the next election or not long after it. This new party (we’ll call them the UK Democrats, because that’s essentially what they’ll be) gradually takes over labour’s position, becoming a slightly more centrist version of the lib dems (perhaps even merging with them), while Corbyn’s labour, robbed of much of its voters, finance and support declines and joins the ranks of the many other parties of the socialist left, whom it spends the rest of the time fighting with.
Perhaps I can illustrate the danger Corbyn posses via my own position. I’m exactly the sort of left wing voter he’ll need to persuade to vote labour next election if he’s to win. I’ve voted labour in the past and I’ve voted for other left wing parties before (Greens, SNP, etc.). I generally vote labour back in Ireland, noting that they are a “proper” labour party in Ireland, not any of this new labour nonsense. So will I vote labour in the next UK election with Corbyn in charge? NO! Is it because he’s too left wing? No, nothing to do with that. I voted remain, I want someone who speaks for the 63% of us who didn’t vote leave. Corbyn is clearly not up to the task. Ultimately, he has very little chance of getting elected. If I want to see left wing or liberal policies implemented, I’m better off voting lib dem or Greens (or in Scotland SNP). They have some chance of implementing those policies as a coalition partner in a future government and are providing much more robust opposition to the Tories at the moment.
So the question to Corbyn supporters is, if you can’t persuade me to vote for him, or the thousands of his own party members cutting their membership cards in half this week, what chance do you have of persuading the millions of centre ground voters (who will decide the next election) to vote for him? Labour have just voted to lose the next election. Its time for Corbyn and his supporters take take a healthy dose of Realpolitik.