by David Butler
Saturday September 12th was perhaps the worst internal defeat ever suffered by the Labour right. The scale of Corbyn’s victory was as vast as it was stunning. To recover, the Labour right must rediscover a clarity of mission and craft a new story to tell the party and the country.
This defeat was worse than Michael Foot’s victory in 1980 and the internal setbacks of the late 70s and early 80s. Foot was picked by a divided and fearful PLP. A minority of ideologically uncompromising activists drove the Bennite surge. Corbyn’s victory was, by contrast, a popular one; the Party’s members, supporters and affiliates dealt the blow.
Like the Liberals in 1906, this may be a victory from which the left of the party never recovers. Yet Corbyn’s failure, if that occurs, will not be sufficient to win back the hearts and minds of the party faithful.
Phil Collins argued that internal regeneration has three parts: intellectual, organisational, and personal. Intellectual renewal precedes the latter two. This involves not just reflecting upon ideology but also the strategic context that Labour operates within. Critically, it is also about finding a new clarity of mission.
The leadership election had a clear message: dry arguments about process, policy and electability are not enough to win. Too much time spent on these and too little time on developing a vision cursed the three moderate candidates in the race. The candidates of the right, unfairly or otherwise, came across as hollow.