Three reasons for Labour moderates to stay and be confident the fever will eventually break

by Atul Hatwal

Optimism has been in short supply for Labour moderates. Ed Miliband, general election disaster and now Jeremy Corbyn. What a time.

But in the gloom of Labour’s long winter, all is not lost.

It will take patience. Years, maybe. But as George RR Martin might not say, summer is coming. Perhaps at the same pace as Martin’s next novel, but nevertheless, come it will.

Here are three reasons to be confident that these hard times will pass.

1. The soft left will switch

A common thread in the interviews and analysis of Labour’s massive influx of new members and supporters is that while the overwhelming majority supported Corbyn, they are not from the hard left.

Over the past three months I’ve spoken to CLP officers from over 30 constituencies on the make-up of the new membership and the response of Jane Middleton, chair of Bath CLP, in the Guardian’s recent survey of 100 CLPs exemplified what I’ve been hearing,

“They are mainly Corbyn supporters, some of them enthusiastic Corbyn supporters, who joined specifically because of him…A number of them had left during the Blair years and the Iraq war. What they are not is members of the far left. These people are in no way like the radicals of the 70s and 80s.”

This is the soft left. The Labour party is currently softer and lefter than it’s ever been.

The soft left view at the leadership election can be characterised as apathy at Yvette’s establishment, Brownite grind; an allergic reaction to Liz’s late-Blair confrontation and scepticism at Andy’s reprise of Ed Miliband’s muddled equivocation.

In the absence of an alternative, Labour’s largest grouping opted for the only choice before them not to have demonstrably failed in the past twenty years – Jeremy Corbyn’s hard left dreaming.

The trouble with dreams is that they rarely come true and sometimes turn into nightmares.

Talk of a new politics and a mythical new path to victory via the extreme left, is already fading in the mist.

Unlike the hard left, the soft left aren’t true believers. Eternal opposition is not a palatable diet and poisons the basis of their backing of Corbyn – hope.

The polls, the scabarous headlines and annual defeats at local and regional elections that will become a grimly regular experience, will take their toll on soft left support.

Before Christmas, there was the first swallow of a long distant summer for centrists.

The queen of soft left dreams, Polly Toynbee wrote a column of unremitting despair about Labour’s prospects under Corbyn.

“Optimism is in our DNA. I have always found some political project I can believe will work. Right now, for the first time in my life, I see none…The running of the party is shambolic – few press releases, policies or campaigns. Appalling legislation passes without the public knowing, for lack of an effective Labour voice.”

This is the columnist who had previously written frequently and confidently that Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband were on the march to victory.

The minutiae of politics is part of Polly’s daily existence. She’s got there quicker than most soft left members of the selectorate who are nowhere near as immersed in politics. But many if not the majority will arrive at the same destination, for the same reasons, in the coming years.

2. The electorate will put a hard stop to the Corbyn fantasy in 2020

Even if Jeremy Corbyn makes it to 2020, if the PLP have been cowed into subservience, if soft left doubts haven’t sufficiently crystallised, if Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership hasn’t collapsed under the weight of its own political incompetence, even if all of this happens, then the electorate will finally put him out of Labour’s misery.

The latest analysis, based on past performance and current polling, places Labour on a trajectory to achieve a percentage result in 2020 in the mid-twenties.

Dozens of Labour MPs will lose their seats. Constituencies that were once competitive will become safe Conservative bastions. Labour will be electorally eviscerated: the Tories will have untrammelled power with a majority pushing 150 and the prospect of a sinecure in government until 2030 at least.

It would be a tragedy for Britain and the democratic process, but one definitive outcome would be an end to the Corbyn experiment.

A defeat of such a magnitude would transform nascent doubts across the membership into bitter anger and despair at the betrayal of hope.

The calculus for the soft left in a 2020 post-election leadership contest would be fundamentally different to 2015: the most egregious and searing failure would be that of the hard left – any of the other options would have greater credibility as vessels for members’ and supporters’ yearning for a better future.

3. Labour’s the only way to stop the Tories

Bleak as defeat in 2020 would be, it wouldn’t constitute an existential moment for the party.

There’s currently a lot of chatter about Labour’s position being irretrievable, splits and setting up a new centre-left party. This is nonsense.

Under the first past the post voting system, any splinter party from Labour would die a similar, if not more gruesome death, to the SDP.

The absence of a ground organisation for any new party combined with entrenched voting allegiances that span generations means that there is zero chance of any breakthrough or shake-up of the current duopoly.

Just look at the expectations around Ukip before the 2015 general election and the final result.

The PLP knows this even if some more emotional moderate Labour commentators ignore it.

First past the post also means that almost no matter how incompetent, ideologically extreme and unpopular Jeremy Corbyn is, Labour will remain the second party and as such, the only vehicle for stopping the Tories.

Anyone who speculates about Labour disappearing or dropping behind the Lib Dems, has invariably failed to understand the magnitude of upheaval that was required in 1918 for Labour to supplant the Liberals.

It was a perfect storm: millions of new voters coming onto the electoral roll, through the extension of the franchise, who did not have an established voting behaviour, combined with the Liberal prime minister, Lloyd George, leading a wing of his party in vituperative opposition to the rest of the party, under the leadership of the previous Liberal prime minister, Herbert Asquith.

And just for good measure, to deepen the bitterness, throw in Lloyd George’s alliance with the Tories.

It’s impossible for Labour to replicate this sort of meltdown.

The nearest approximation would have been if the 2010 election had been fought with Tony Blair leading half the Labour party, in concert with the Tories, in opposition to Gordon Brown’s version of the Labour party at a time when the franchise was extended to 3 million 14-17 year olds voting for the first time.

This isn’t to recommend or idealise first past the post, but it means that Labour will persist and because it will persist, it will be the only focus for those who are serious about challenging the Tories.

These three reasons are clearly not a positive agenda. They do not describe the brighter tomorrow which Labour must ultimately define. Rather they are the precursors to Labour’s revival.

They are why Labour’s moderates should stay in the party: because the Corbynite fever will break and then the real work of Labour can begin again.

Atul Hatwal is editor of Uncut

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32 Responses to “Three reasons for Labour moderates to stay and be confident the fever will eventually break”

  1. Adam Gray says:

    Let’s just get this straight because way too many people are cleaving to the myth of the soft left:

    * Anyone who voted for the farthest-left MP in the parliamentary party;
    * Anyone who wants to leave Britain without a nuclear deterrent just as Russia is resurrecting the Cold War;
    * Anyone who thinks air strikes against Daesh, are immoral;
    * Anyone who thinks Britain is not a force for good in the world;
    * Anyone who hates Israel;
    * Anyone who excuses Putin;
    * Anyone who believes Neil Kinnock was on the right of the party;
    * Anyone who justifies or apologises for terrorists;
    * Anyone who thinks Britain can borrow, borrow, borrow without ever paying back;

    Anyone who thinks those things is not SOFT anything. They are howl at the moon, extremist, loony left nutters. Just because they’ve never been members of the SWP does not make them reasonable. It does not make them people anyone with more integrity and patriotism should want to be in the same room, let alone the same party, as them.

    If the very very best you can offer those who can vaguely relate to the mainstream of the electorate is an eternity of Ed Miliband, faux-left, mushy, dithering “the country has moved left” bollocks candidates then let’s keep the Corbynites in charge please. At least they believe in the catastrophic platform they’re peddling.

  2. swatantra says:

    Wait and see is a good enough strategy. I’m pretty confident that this Momentum lot will trip over themselves in their enthusiasm and self combust. And Labour will regain its senses. Give them enough rope and they’ll hang themselves. They’re incapable of running a whelk stall without falling out with each other.
    I also have the feeling that the 2016 locals can be written off as well as Holyrood.
    But once Labour has undergone this self inflicted trauma, we’ll come out the better for it.
    And 2020 may still be a bit too soon to get our act together.

  3. ed the m says:

    More wishful thinking. Get real.

  4. Anne says:

    I too am impatient for Martin’s next instalment – there are so many loose ends. If Jon Snow is still alive might he say ‘you know nothing’ Jeremy Corbyn.

  5. paul barker says:

    I am a Libdem & an ex Trot, I despise Marxism as an idea but I usually try to treat even Marxists with some sort of respect. This article begins with the patronising assumption that most of Labours current members are suffering from some sort of brain fever or temporary breakdown. If your opinion of Labour members is so low why on earth are you a member ?
    Now Corbyn did not stand on a fully Marxist platform but surely most of those who voted for him knew roughly what they were getting ? Polling suggests that most Labour members know that Labour support will fall & they are prepared to pay that price. They are not stupid, they want different things from you.
    There is plenty of evidence that Centrist Labour members are leaving while more Corbyn supporters join, the longer the “Moderates” wait, the weaker their position becomes.

  6. Tafia says:

    British Election Study which questioned 30,000 voters about the 2015 election.

    Their conclusion is clear. There was no shy Tory vote, no late swing votes and no anti-SNP vote. They found is that Labour went to the right they would LOSE votes and if they went to the Left they would gain votes. They also found that going Left was not sufficient to get a victory. Labour lost votes because they were in charge when the 2008 financial crash happened and it would take years for Labour to recover from that. They said that the ERM-sterling crisis also kept the Tories out of power. There is truth to concerns about Ed Milliband – but over his leadership ability, not his political position on the left-right spectrum.

    This is what the study found:

    “…The first is the ‘SNP threat’. As discussed above, we currently find little robust evidence that attitudes towards the SNP and expectations about a hung parliament resulted in gains for the Conservatives from Ukip or in vote losses for Labour from former Lib Dems.

    “The second red herring is Labour’s left-right position, that is, the question of whether Labour was either overly or insufficiently left-wing. Generally, our data shows that people were more likely to vote Labour in 2015 when they thought the party was more left-wing, and less likely to vote Labour when they thought it was centrist.

    “This suggests there is very little to the argument that Labour was too left-wing to attract voters. At the same time there is not much to support the argument that Labour was not left-wing enough. There was very little difference in the likelihood of voting Labour between someone who thought Labour sat at the left-most end of the scale (0) and someone who saw it as just left of centre (4), it is only when people saw Labour as sitting to the right of this point that support really drops off…”

  7. People who have read Atul’s posts over the last six months or so will not need me to tell them that his predictions should taken with a very large pinch of salt. then again this below was an interesting piece by him and something I do think he got right for a change. I like to think of myself as part of the soft left. I have very little time for middle-class Leninist revolutionaries.

    The soft left view at the leadership election can be characterised as apathy at Yvette’s establishment, Brownite grind; an allergic reaction to Liz’s late-Blair confrontation and scepticism at Andy’s reprise of Ed Miliband’s muddled equivocation.

    Yes exactly, what the New Labour PLP establishment offered us was disheartening to say the least. And there really was no prince over the sea to come rescue them or some young blood that could have saved New Labour’s control of the party. No, David Miliband, Tristram Hunt, Chuka Umanna or even the untested Dan Jarvis wouldn’t have been able to stop the membership’s revolt against the managerial New Labour cadres. Was there a possible candidate who could win? I had a feeling before Corbyn was nominated that Alan Johnson could, not so much because of what he stood for, but because of what he wasn’t. He wasn’t a Westminster ex-Spad, a bag-carrying Oxbridge graduate fast tracked into the PLP. He was almost a normal person and I would have voted for him just to get away from the careerist clones that infest the party.

    What Atul is incapable of answering is why both inside and outside the party Labour’s political class has such a low reputation. Why its the public perception was so poor? Answer that and you will discover why Corbyn won.

  8. Mike Stallard says:

    Momentum is forming into the rump of the Labour Movement.
    On the right, the conservatives are about to split over the EU Referendum.
    Mr Cameron is about to retire.

    That leaves a vast gap in the centre.
    I wonder if the Conservative Remainers and the “soft left” could unite? If they could find a good leader, untainted by Blair and Brownian ideas, I reckon they would sweep the polls.

    Just a hundred years ago the Liberals looked like a firm, steady party which would go on for ever. They crashed. Labour could too.

  9. James says:

    There’s one thing missing in all of these pro-Corbyn postings – a complete lack of responsibility.

    Opposition is a ROLE whether in a council or in the House of Commons. The role includes creating a political strategy to provide an alternative government.

    Is Labour the most decadent modern party?

  10. Ben says:

    My worry is that a Corbyn defeat will be blamed on the disloyalty of MP’s and the PLP will attempt to purge them through deselections.

    It’s partly because of this that I think centrists within the party need to be a little more careful about criticising Corbyn, he will fall on his own, but if we’re the ones who push him we’ll be blamed.

  11. Toby says:

    This is right in that eventually the tide will change and Corbyn will be gone. But waiting until 2020 is too long. If the Tories win 100+ seat majority in 2020 we can write off the 2025 election too. No, Labour needs to make gains (however modest in 2020) to stand a chance in 2025. We may not be able to win in 2020 but the Tories only have a 12 seat majority now. A competent Labour Party should be able to take 6 seats from them!

    But the labour mainstream need to act now to make this a possibility. I’m hanging on in the Party until the Conference but if the PLP hasn’t kicked JC out by then, I’m off. I’ll come back in 2029.

  12. paul barkert says:

    So how Soft is the Soft Left ? According to the latest Labour List survey more than half think Labour should back all strikes automatically. How is that different from the SWP approach ?

  13. Luke says:

    Even if, after 2020, sane Labour rises from the ashes of its evisceration, who in Labour will address the two issues that the British people want addressing:

    (1) Immigration

    (2) Islamisation

    The British people want control of the borders, controlled immigration, and they want the Islamisation of our society to be stopped. They want corrupt multiculturalism and the moral relativism that comes from that stopped. They want Islamists to be crushed. They want sharia courts ended permanently. They want security, they want grooming gangs exposed and punished, they want the culture of silence and cover up ended.

    Who in Labour, even sane Labour, will ever address these issues? The Tories have smited the Muslim Brotherhood, are going after the Jihadis and Islamists, and addressing sharia courts. Who in Labour will do that and maintain it? Especially since Labour will even under sane leadership be wedded to multiculturalism and cultural relativism. Who will stand up to Islamist bullies in our society? The London luvvie Islington Labour movement that has to pander to Islam because of the Muslim vote bloc?

    Lets remember the current leader of Labour is an open Islamist supporter. The Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, his apologetics for ISIS and al Qaeda atrocities (‘we are to blame’) should in a just world be enough to have Labour wiped out of existence. John McDonnell standing next to CAGE this week, a Salafi Jihadi lobbying group, is a spit in the face of Britain. How are you going to remove this stain from the name of your party?

  14. John P Reid says:

    I’m not sure if the soft left will switch, Swatntea being a good example,I’m not sure if Swt is hoping to stand for Basildin/Thurrock council elections next year, and if lsbour do bad it’ll be seen as a sign,of the mistake of putting Heremy in charge, I inow some on the centre of the labour pray who are councillors in Barking and Dagenham, I reckon they’ll lose their council seats in 2018 due to Jeremy, but even if they do,they won’t blame him, and they won’t say, ‘it’s a moral victory, to lose on a far left platform’ they’ll say ‘ the electorate can be won round into thinking Jeremy is right’
    Pt he only way the soft left will realize that Jeremy is Toxic, is they
    A) want a lsbour victory,and realize it’s the centre ground that wins elections


    B) at he momentum Corbynistas, let McDonnell have more power and the Mysoginist anti semites , embareses the party to the point it’s twigged,that, ‘frank discussion ,on direction’ wasn’t the chance we hoped and it’s wide spread infiltration, ala Militant

  15. ad says:

    I’ve said this before, but democratic political parties should be lead by the representatives of the people i.e. MPs. Otherwise, things like this happen.

  16. anosrep says:

    Mr Hatwal, I ask once again: suppose you turn out to be wrong about Corbyn’s electability. Suppose he wins the 2020 election with an overall majority. I know you’re sure he won’t (and maybe you’re right), but just suppose he does. Would you be pleased?

  17. TCO says:

    I should remind you of the parable of the inductivist Turkey:

  18. Tafia says:

    I’ve said this before, but democratic political parties should be lead by the representatives of the people i.e. MPs. Otherwise, things like this happen.

    That is one of the biggest loads of bollocks I have ever read on here. A political party belongs to the people who fund it full stop. And the representatives are selected (and de-selected) by the party members not the public.

    Is this the anti-Corbyns next tactic? To go around suggesting that the entire membership should have no say on who the candidates are? What a fucking farce that would be. This is the sort of drivel that people who think the tax-payer should fund parties comes up with.

    And the only MPs that actually represent their consituencies are the ones that poll over 50% of the vote – which isn’t very many. In fact there’s a fair few MPs who actually polled less in their relevant constituencies than the number of people whocouldn’t be arsed to vote – which is hardly an endorsement.

  19. John P Reid says:

    Swatantra, for someone who believed Militant would never come back,and voted for Jeremy, what do you make of this

  20. James Martin says:

    Atul, while you are still in full Mystic Meg mode can you also get the next winning Lotto numbers for me?

  21. Mr Akira Origami says:


    “The British people want control of the borders, controlled immigration, and they want the Islamisation of our society to be stopped.”

    I’m sure the British people are really glad that Britain’s Labour Party never got elected last May!

  22. Anne says:

    Margaret Beckette was commissioned to undertake a study of the reasons for Labour defeat in 2015 – I don’t think this report has been published but I would guess the main reasons given were management of the economy, immigration and leadership will be big contenders. Wouldn’t it be a more sensible approach to evaluate this report – yes debate and opinions regarding the way foreword to formulate plans to address these concerns. Rather than focusing on Trident which looks to having a head on battle with the unions – Corbyn needs to be careful not to cut off the hand that feeds him.

  23. paul barker says:

    Its not just that Labours membership has swung strongly to the Left, the swing is continuing. Even now new members are joining at the rate of 1,500 a month, the great majority presumably Corbyn supporters. At the same time moderate/centrist members are leaving, at a rate between 2,500 a month (Labour Central Office) & 3 or 4 times that.
    With every month the position of the moderates grows weaker. Corbyn supporters arent going to come to their senses, they arent mad or stupid they just have different aims.
    Perhaps the centrist majority of The PLP have a cunning plan to topple Corbyn or perhaps they are running round like headless chickens. Who knows ?

  24. Adam Gray,

    I’ll leave the first 8 of your 9 points for others to discuss but, if you’re up for it, I’ll just take you on with your 9th point:

    “Anyone who thinks Britain can borrow, borrow, borrow without ever paying back”

    I’m not sure why you used the word borrow three times. Maybe you have a keyboard problem? 🙂

    But doesn’t it depend on the nature of the “borrowing” ? I the UK government borrows US$ from the US government (or Fed) then of course they will at some point have to repay unless the US govt waive the debt. They’ve generously done some of that in the past BTW wrt to war debts.

    But suppose they borrow in UK pounds. The UK pound is an IOU of the UK government so every time the UK govt issue pounds (either as cash or gilts) they are in effect “borrowing” pounds in accountancy terms. But to whom should they ever pay them back? They can’t pay them back to anyone. The government can only collect them up by taxing them away from the rest of us and put them in the shredder. That’s not a good idea!

  25. 07052015 says:

    Labour is a coalition of socialists,social democrats and blairites held together by FPTP.Only a PR based system would change this allowing the three elements to continue to function,fights elections separately but form coalitions to govern.

    Yes playing the long game to 2020 makes sense but always expect the unexpected in politics .There are so many variables from a new economic crash ,a tory leadership election ,a tory snp.federal uk deal,the EU referendum.

    What labour needs is a broad policy offer in 2020,housing ,social care,fair taxes .So positive thinking is the priority whilst we let events play out.

  26. Mr Akira Origami says:

    “destroys final trace of credibility”

    The Labour Party finally becomes a loony far left wing think tank (the membership of the mad) whos primary objective is to completely disassociate themselves with the British electorate.

    Atul..dead horse flogging has it’s limits.

  27. John P Reid says:

    07052015′ as much as I support PR, would a coalition of Blairites democrats and Socialists ,reLly be blue to work together, suppose Blairites are Neo liberL,so that puts them in the Liberal camp, Democrats are like the old SDP, and sociList like labour of the 1980’s
    the idea that the liberals and SDP would have formed a coalition gov’t with labour in the 80’s would imply Owen and co,would have worked with Labour, is daft, as the SDP voters strongly disliked labours policies

  28. Feodor says:

    “The queen of soft left dreams, Polly Toynbee wrote a column of unremitting despair about Labour’s prospects under Corbyn … The minutiae of politics is part of Polly’s daily existence. She’s got there quicker than most soft left members of the selectorate who are nowhere near as immersed in politics. But many if not the majority will arrive at the same destination, for the same reasons, in the coming years.”

    This would be the same Polly Toynbee who was using her public platform as a journalist in a national newspaper to urge people not to vote for Corbyn? That is who you are using as an example of the kind of ‘soft left’ Labour member who’s liable to come to their senses and desert him? Really sloppy writing here Atul, as usual.

  29. Grant says:

    I think you’re right, the stone has momentum, but it’s going uphill and already losing speed, the best thing to do is to wait for gravity to fully reassert itself. Step back from the detail, take a hands-off role and recharge your batteries with something non-political. No point wasting energy, just be ready to return when needed with a renewed vigour.

  30. Martin says:

    There are two unspoken analysis behind this article, both relating to Cameron’s referendum on the EU. Firstly that the vote will be to remain in and secondly the political upshot will leave the Tory Party relatively unscathed.

    It is hard to imagine that the vote will be for a Brexit, but it could happen. It seems to me that the economic and then political consequences would be calamitous. However, a vote to stay in that was not overwhelming would both invigorate UKIP and only pour salt in the Tories’ festering wounds. A referendum whose principal objective is to heal Tory divisions will do no such thing.

    What would follow when, for far too many reasons, neither Labour nor Liberal Democrats are in any position to strike at an open goal, is I think, beyond rational speculation.

  31. Tafia says:

    There are two unspoken analysis behind this article, both relating to Cameron’s referendum on the EU.

    The EU referendum result will be dictated primarily by one thing and one thing only – middle eastern refugees. Anyone who thinks this problem has died down is a creti. It’s gone quiet because it’s winter. As soon as spring is established it is going to increase again and rapidly, to levels far in excess of last year. Likewise the areas they are coming from will expand as the various offensives kick-off in Syria, northern Iraq, Afghanistan (which the Taleban and ISIS are slowly overrunning), Yemen etc
    and nearby countries to the conflict areas as they in turn destabilise. Remember, there are over 2 million refugees in Turkey alone all with the intention of heading west – and if they are given even the merest of chances that they will be helped they will start to move and more will come from the ravaged areas to replace them.

    The UK electorate are not stupid – they are not going to support a ‘pro’ campaign that has achieved nothing set in stone before the vote – they will just see that as a big con. If Cameron doesn’t get his demands met, agreed to and put in place before that vote then we will be leaving – get used to the idea.

    And remember, we’ve got all uppity with the Russians about them slotting a traitor and former spy on the streets of London. It suits the Russians to keep the refugee crisis continuing – the damage it is doing politically within the EU is, to their eyes, a joy to behold and until we shut up about Alexander Litvinenko and drop all these demands for sanctions (and look the other way while they impose a solution to the Donbass in Ukraine), then they will just keep the conditions going to encourage more refugees.

  32. Mr Akira Origami says:

    At last…. Corbyn is addressing the immigration problem.

    After the defacing of the statue of Charles de Gaulle, will Hollande call for a state of emergency on the crisis? Let’s not forget France has it’s nuclear deterrent!

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