by Ian McKenzie
This whole “should Corbyn be on the ballot paper or not” thing is now out of hand. It is really very simple. The left in the Labour party has not been crushed since the mid 1980s around the end of the last era during which they were a malign influencing force. Unless the left are crushed Labour can’t win a general election. Unless Labour wins a general election the Tories will carry on running the country doing things the left and centre left don’t like.
Contrary to popular mythology (including my own at the time), Tony Bair didn’t vanquish the left. Sure, in 1994-5, there was the months-long Clause 4 national tour, I was at its last rally at Crofton Park’s famous Rivoli Ballroom, but the left knew the game was up and faded away. It was all a bit inevitable. What we really needed then, and desperately need now, was to be locked in a room until the fight was won. Blair’s true opposition inside the Labour party wasn’t the left. It was Brown. And we all know how that turned out.
In a few weeks, about a quarter of a million members of the Labour party will receive leadership election ballot papers. Sadly, membership numbers will be swelled by rather too many Trots and Tories to whom some idiot decided to give a vote for the sum of £3, but we will all have a vote.
I expect that Jeremy Corbyn will come last. A lot of people don’t agree. They include some pollsters who told us that a Tory majority was impossible in May 2015, and some bookies, including the one who had to pay me £450 because I thought a Tory majority wasn’t impossible but rather impossible to avoid.
On 12 September, once Jeremy Corbyn has been trounced and the soft and hard lefts humiliated, the Labour party can get back to doing its job of trying to work with and among the vast majority of the British people to bring about a Labour government in the interests of everyone.
But, if I am wrong, if collective amnesia among those who lived the through the 1980s, coupled with the ignorance of those too young to have suffered such times (and who haven’t learned from wiser souls), means that Corbyn and the left are not trounced, and he either wins or fails to come a poor last, then so be it.
If that happens, Labour will not deserve to be taken seriously and certainly not deserve to win anything. We will just have to deal with the consequences. It will be a short while, a couple of years at most, before we are in a position to be able to start rebuilding and preparing for the 15-20 further years in opposition it will usher in.
I wish that the left had been able to see the Blair and early Brown New Labour formula for the Tory-bewildering common sense it was. All they had to do was understand how political compromise works and they could have had an awful lot of the things they wanted along with the National Minimum Wage, 50%+1 trade union recognition, 4 weeks paid holiday, the renovated public infrastructure and much, much else that New Labour achieved.
I wish it but they weren’t able to see it. The left are never happy unless they are wishing for everything and winning nothing. Marching past, and shouting at, empty government office buildings on a Saturday is so rewarding for them and all the more conscience-assuagingly so if the government in question is a Tory government.
This current Corbyn Fest will kill or cure. And what doesn’t kill us will make us stronger. 11% of Labour members are on Twitter and many of them haven’t logged in to Twitter for months. Labour members: have faith in your comrades and colleagues. Trust their common sense. But if they have temporarily misplaced it and Corbyn wins, then follow the example of Labour’s most successful leader ever, the 1982 by-election loser Tony Blair, and dust yourself down, remember you are Labour, and get on with the job of making Labour electable again.
Ian McKenzie was a Special Adviser to Ann Taylor MP and John Prescott MP