by Rob Marchant
It is now taken as accepted everywhere in British politics, with the exception of some parts of the Labour Party’s rank and file, that Labour cannot win an election with Corbyn at the helm. You can attempt to argue with this premise, but you’ll find few allies outside of the echo chamber of party activists and three-pound associate members who voted for him.
This leaves sensible members with two options: engage and hope things get better, or reject and look for a new plan. Many MPs are, in good faith, choosing the former option.
But as Ben Bradshaw MP must have seen on Tuesday night, any decent attempt to play ball with the new leadership seems doomed to end in the frustrating realisation that it is hopeless. MPs in the Parliamentary Labour Party looked on in dismay, as the party’s flagship economic policy did an unceremonious U-turn.
Within two weeks of its announcement.
And here is the problem with “wait and see”: with every day that passes, the political situation gets progressively worse, not better. It is not enough to merely let Corbynism burn itself out, or let it be comprehensively defeated in five years’ time. Here’s why.
One. The obvious: the general shambles of the party’s policy and appearances on the media is undoubtedly further damaging the party’s image, to the extent that that is still possible. Corbyn has the worst ratings of any incoming leader since such polling began in 1955. This alone is enough to make waiting and seeing untenable.
Two. It will not be long before our local parties are infiltrated by the hard left. Once this happens, it will be hell to get them out, as Labour discovered in the 1980s. A number of members have already reported anecdotally to Uncut that they suddenly don’t recognise their local parties any more.
Three. Once happened, cleaning up the local parties cannot even start while there is not a party HQ carrying out a systematic campaign to do so, as happened with Militant. Shortly the new leadership will be installing their own General Secretary and their people in party HQ, making this kind of campaign impossible for the foreseeable future.
Taken together, it is not difficult to deduce that “wait and see” is not only complacent but dangerous. The party is, by any analysis, in an existential crisis. Those MPs must now consider whether they will live to regret their passiveness, in the face of the combination of incompetent politics and too-competent political organisation.
There are people who will pooh-pooh this as scaremongering. Those people should read their twentieth century history: this is how the far left operates. If you think that “Momentum” will be a benign movement, like David Miliband’s Movement For Change, think again. As the Times’ Oliver Kamm noted yesterday, “Momentum is an entryist organisation that’s parasitic on the Labour host”. Do we really not remember what that did to us and how long it took to recover.
Moreover, there are a great many reasons to think that the situation is considerably worse this time than in Neil Kinnock’s tenure. Not least of these is that Kinnock was not close to Militant, and neither was Foot, an ardent anti-totalitarian. They were on the outside, but Jeremy Corbyn is well to the left of both. On the inside.
No, it is not a case of an attempt by the far left to take over the leadership, it has already been taken over: the lunatics took over the asylum a month ago. The only question is whether the remaining people who care about the Labour Party as an electoral force can manage to wake up, realise what has happened and act.
Rob Marchant is an activist and former Labour Party manager who blogs at The Centre Left