Should Blairites stay or split if Corbyn wins?

by Samuel Dale

Jeremy Corbyn is now the bookies’ favourite to win the Labour leadership contest. A couple of dodgy polls puts him miles clear and Corbyn-mania has gripped the nation.

The media is losing the plot. The Spectator’s Rod Liddle thinks he could become prime minister. The Telegraph’s Mary Riddell says he is the a modern politician not a dinosaur. And the Guardian’s Owen Jones believes he would be just swell.

As Atul Hatwal has written this is the same suspension of reality that gripped the nation prior to Ed Miliband’s defeat in May. It is still highly unlikely Corbyn will win.

But humour me. What if on September 13 we wake up to a party in the hands of a leader as unprepared and unsuited to the job since Michael Foot?

For so-called Blarites – moderates who want to actually win and change Britain – there are only two options. Stand and fight to wrest back control of Labour from the grip of a Marxist cabal heading for electoral oblivion.

Or split and create a new party, perhaps forming an alliance with Tim Farron’s Liberal Democrats.

Let’s take them in turn.

First, let’s stay.

Corbyn has no governing experience, he is easily riled, his policies are mad and he has numerous unsavory foreign connections.

The intense scrutiny he would be under as Labour leader combined with the lack of experience could see him off within 18 months.

Yvette Cooper, Liz Kendall and Chuka Ummuna have already said they would not serve in a Corbyn cabinet. How many others would refuse? Lots.

Vast swathes of the PLP would surely just ignore the party whip and vote as they please, just as Corbyn has done more than 500 times since 1997.

The utter disarray and insane policies could see Labour’s poll ratings crash to the low 20s by January 2018 – that’s on generous mid-term polling. His impact on an EU referendum vote would be minuscule due to wide unpopularity.

in this scenario Corbyn would be ousted and a sensible Labour leader could be in place for the next election. For this to happen, Labour moderates would have to be far more ruthless in ousting terrible leaders, far better organised and much more persuasive than today.

Wounds could heal as everyone admits they made a mistake a la Iain Duncan Smith in 2001 and the party unites for the election. That is the best case scenario for staying and it is compelling.

But even if Corbyn somehow stumbled into the next election and was wiped out then we could rebuild. We came back from 1983 and the Tories came back from 1997. The long, hard slog is the only realistic road back to a Labour victory and kicking the Tories out.

Alternatively, let’s leave.

Leaving would be arguably more principled because a Corbyn premiership would be a disaster for Britain.

Many Labour MPs would almost certainly even favour George Osborne or Theresa May as prime minister in 2020 than Corbyn. That would be a tough position to stay in the party.

It would also be tough to stay in a party as an MP if you are ignoring the whip constantly (even if that doesn’t seem to mean much to Corbyn).

Additionally, the impact of his disastrous leadership could not be easily unwound. If Corbyn was ousted before an election and replaced with a moderate then the far Left would cry blue murder.

The same coalition of Trots and delusionists that got him elected would be furious. It could poison the party and taint the new leader infecting the party for years. Labour could still split but from an even worse position.

And if Corbyn was allowed to run an election campaign in 2020 then it could be the most disastrous ever, worse than 1983 and worse than 1997 for the Tories.

If the Tories dominate the centre and somehow hold together after the EU vote then Corbyn could lose another 100 seats. The newly left-wing and moderate Lib Dems could surge.

Post-2020 the party could still fracture but in a much worse position than now and even more bitterly. There is no guarantee we could fight back from such as disaster. It could spell the end of the Labour party anyway.

That’s the case for leaving in September and starting on the work of a creating a new party immediately. Before it is too late.

There are no good options flowing from a Corbyn victory. Either the Labour right stay and tell the truth about the impending car crash to be proved right once again. And pick up the wreckage.

Or they leave and try to build a new moderate centre-left-party and replace the remnants of a Corbynite Labour over the next decade.

Personally, I think we should stay and fight. Even after a Corbyn leadership the Labour party can bounce back.

A split would do nothing to stop the Tories politically and nothing to practically change the nation in the way we want. The scars of the 1981 SDP split are still felt today. The Lib Dems’ moderate offer in May was hardly lapped up by voters either.

It’s a tough road but sensible Labour MPs must stay under Corbyn and keep telling the truth from the backbenches until reality bites. Practically, the best route to change Britain is to change the party from within once again.

But, obviously, Corbyn won’t win.

Sam Dale is a financial and political journalist

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34 Responses to “Should Blairites stay or split if Corbyn wins?”

  1. Skiamakhos says:

    If you split, don’t go & form yet another party. We have too many as it is competing for votes in a 2-party system; better instead to go join the LibDems. Why remain & undermine the leader chosen by the CLPs, members & unions? Is that democratic? Why not get with the programme or get out of the way & give it a fair chance? These “mad” policies are actually supported by a large portion of the electorate, even if they don’t identify as leftists. Take nationalising the railways for example – YouGov put support at around 60% for that. Either split, & join the LibDems so people have clear & distinct options to vote for, or join with Corbyn & make it a success.

  2. paul barker says:

    There is a 3rd alternative, join The Libdems. That would mean dropping some of your authoritarian baggage & swallowing your pride. You would have to get uesed to campaigning with fewer members & a fraction of the money.
    The big advantage is that you wouldnt be starting from scratch or having the same arguments over & over again.

  3. Bradshaw says:

    Come on, Corbyn is far less prepared for and suited to the role of Leader than Michael Foot. Foot had been a senior and respected Cabinet minister during the Wilson and Callaghan governments.

  4. swatantra says:

    Wish Id put some money on old Corbyn 6 weeks ago. But there you go. I switched from Andy to JC about 4 weeks ago, because I was not impressed with Andy and was seeing JC as a Unity candidate. That’s why the Right and Left should work together. No splits please. To split would consign them to aprobium and turn them into dogmeat. Better to work within and change the Party than from without which is impossible anyway.

  5. Delta says:

    1. Nobody amongst the Blairite/Borwnite ranks has the wits or ability to create a new Party.
    2. Nobody who is a Blairite or a Browite amongst the PLP has an ounce of principle, if indeed they even know what they are. So taking some kind of moral stand is at best laughable when they can rely on many tens of thousands of gullable Labour voters in safe seats to provide a free ride in the name of “Labour”.
    3. Your assessment post-Corbyn is incorrect regarding the Lib Dems as far as I can see.
    4. Its going to be much more fun watching the outcome of this competition for the Losership and watching all the Blairite and Lefties, whatever the outcome going along with it all for the money.
    5. You still have Kinnock in the background trying to get a job for his spawn. Kinnock will happily play to whatever tune is being played regardless to make sure his offspring enjoy the task of avoiding getting a job. Kinnock wants to have his son fulfill his unrealised legacy and repeat history…this is great news and well timed.
    6. You have forgtton UKIP in the North of England…they are just taking off in places the Conservatives cannot reach.

  6. Tafia says:

    Bradshaw – Corbyn is far less prepared for and suited to the role of Leader than Michael Foot. Foot had been a senior and respected Cabinet minister during the Wilson and Callaghan governments.

    What you mean is he comes uncluttered and without baggage.

    Apart from which, name a Labour party leader that went out on a high. Answer – zero , despite all their so0called experience.

  7. SunnyJim says:

    The other option:

    Corbyn proves popular across the country and does well in 2020.

    The Blairite cuckoos then suddenly realise that they WERE left wing after all.

  8. paul barker says:

    Just a quick thought on Corbyns chances – in the last 2 days his share of CLP nominations has gone up from 36% to 37.5% & hes picked up The UKs 2nd largest Union. There are another 6 weeks to go.

  9. Sam Dale says:


    The old “renationalising the railways is popular” chestnut. Ed Miliband has popular policies on energy prices, non-doms, bedroom tax and others. But add it all up and his overall offer was less popular than the sum of its parts. Mood music matters far more than individual policies. Corbyn is about 10 times worse than Miliband.

    There are only two rules in British politics:

    1. Party with best leadership and economic credibility wins
    2. Individually popular policies do not on their own create a popular offer

    That’s it. That’s how you win elections.

  10. Timmy says:

    “since Michael Foot….”?!!
    Michael was regarded with affection and respect by most of the party. That alone means he was more suitable than Corbyn.

  11. Robert says:

    It does not matter who wins to be honest labour has been shown the issue which is you cannot now win, the Tories are back and the people would rather them.

    Labour may not have caused the banking crises they sure as hell did nothing to stop it happening through, now that Cameron is in power and I suspect Osborne two really good politicians we do not need either the left or the right. Why would people vote for the clone when the real thing is in power.

    labour did something when it was needed it won three elections and made it self into a copy of Thatcher she is now dead and to be honest so is labour.

  12. Madasafish says:

    Imagine Corbyn as a Leader.

    Virtually no support from MPs.

    And impossible to criticise any of them who abstain or vote against him given his personal track record….

  13. John P Reid says:

    Swat, you say Corbyn is the u its candidate he hasn’t condemned his supporters smears on Kendall,calling for her to be Tory leader,
    And it’s not Cooper won’t serve in A Corbyn cabinet, it’s shadow cabinet, as there’s no chance ever of him becoming PM

  14. Ryland says:

    I can think of a leader with less experience than Corbyn who became PM – one Tony Blair..

    Why talk of splits? who ever wins should be supported by the MP’s and Commentariat who have supported other candidates. Jus accept that you lost and get on with opposing the Tories…. ah I forgot sorry – yet again the article ( 3rd in the last few days) which suggests commentators and indeed MP’s would rather Osborne as PM than Corbyn. Stuff the ordinary members like me who give up masses of time to get the MP’s elected in the first place… stuff the right of people like me to have a leader who reflects my views. The crisis for the party might just be if the higher ups who think they know best do try to mount some sort of coup or undermine the person who the membership has just voted in.

  15. Cass101 says:

    This all assumes the choice is ours to make. What if we’re kicked out? Noises have been made about expelling Blairites before.

    Personally I’m for staying though I appreciate it would be uncomfortable. I’m Labour whatever some would call me and want a strong Labour government. However if there are mass expulsions I’d favour a new party rather than joining an existing one; a party that can be rooted in the progressive centre. Beating the Tories must be the priority whatever we decide.

  16. paul barker says:

    Britain already has a Party of The Progressive Centre – The Liberal Democrats. How would a new, Centrist Party distinguish itself from The Libdems ?

  17. John P Reid says:

    Skiamakhos, it’s not only CLPs unions and members who are getting a vote the £3 supporters are,and unions are signing up and paying members affiliations, to vote for the candidate of their choice,

    Tafia ,regarding labour leaders who went out on a high, Wilson although he later realized that the 74 manifesto, was a disaster and said he was a huge Thatcher fan
    ,Blair, unless he gets his just deserts at The Hague, ,even Attlee went on a high, even though he went after losing a election,

  18. Mike says:

    JC is hardly the unity candidate. Especially if union bosses who back him are calling Blairites a virus.

  19. Madasafish says:

    Ryland said: “I can think of a leader with less experience than Corbyn who became PM – one Tony Blair..”

    Err: nope..

    “Blair’s political ascent was rapid. He received his first front-bench appointment in 1984 as assistant Treasury spokesman. In May 1985, he appeared on BBC’s Question Time, arguing that the Conservative Government’s Public Order White Paper was a threat to civil liberties.[33] Blair demanded an inquiry into the Bank of England’s decision to rescue the collapsed Johnson Matthey Bank in October 1985. By this time, Blair was aligned with the reforming tendencies in the party (headed by leader Neil Kinnock) and was promoted after the 1987 election to the shadow Trade and Industry team as spokesman on the City of London.
    In 1987, he stood for election to the Shadow Cabinet, receiving 71 votes.[34] When Kinnock resigned after a Conservative victory in the 1992 election, Blair became Shadow Home Secretary under John Smith.”

    Corbyn has NEVER ever held any Ministerial post – Shadow or Governmental.

  20. John P Reid says:

    Swat, with the exception of you and RobertCP and a couple of younger members, the JC supporters ,are ignoring g the fact, that since 2007 we’ve swung to the left and the Tories have done better every time,so why would swinging to the left now, see the Tories do worse

  21. Henrik says:


    This is splendid. Those with longer memories will recall that all this infighting was what I was encouraging you to get out of the way in 2010. You need to clear the air and have this showdown, whichever way it turns out, if you’re going to be a credible Opposition.

    Of course, it’s hilarious to watch, as well, but you won’t grudge me that, will you?

  22. 07052015 says:

    Who knows what will happen ? We live in unpredictable times.

    But if corbyn is elected and then proves not up to it then step forward the elected deputy -well we know he isnt afraid to act .

    Murdoch would go potty but labour party voters would be relaxed.

  23. MacGuffin says:

    Jeremy Corbyn is a Tory-lite capitalist lickspittle.

    Step forward Bunny LaRoche! The proletariat needs you!

  24. Tafia says:

    Cass rooted in the progressive centre.

    It’s arrogance like that that has got the Labour Party into the mess it’s in both internally and externally.

    The Left and the Right can be just as progressive as the Centre and the Centre in turn can be just as regressive as the Right and Left. And ask half-a-dozen people what ‘progressive’ means and you will get half-a-dozen different answers – it’s just meaningless bollocks and the sort of bingo machine crap that Kendall, Burnham and Cooper have been spouting for weeks. Start using language ordinary people understand – like Corbyn does.

  25. Tafia says:

    John P Reid – Wilson went out tired, losing support and at war with half his Cabinet and half the unions, Blair went out in acrimony over Iraq with half his MPs openly bad-mouthing him, the unions threatening him and facing a civil war with the Brown camp. As for Attlee, Korea did for him.

  26. Sam, I will help by giving you another reason not to split. That is people like me would just love you to do that, but I would urge you to do it quickly and not drag it out.

    I would also like to point out there is another option, especially for some MPs. That s to cross the aisle and join the Tories. This isn’t as nonsensical as it seems at first sight. The Cameron/Osborne wing of the party isn’t expecting much help from their far right and as Osborne showed in the budget, he is happy to use New Labour rhetoric. It would seem the right place for someone like Chukka to progress to on his march form left to right, and he may see it as a career opportunity. Maybe even Liz would see polling in the teens for the Labour leadership as a sign that a move would be a good idea.

  27. David Walker says:

    How is it any more sensible to elect a leader that cannot win? Neither Burnham, Cooper or Kendall would be capable of getting Labour a vote share above 32%. They may even struggle to reach 30% and boundary changes make Labour’s position even more hopeless.

    Corbyn might win. He probably won’t but if anyone is going to gain any momentum it is him. The Tory Etonians are too smart for any of the Labour moderates to beat them on their own turf. You can hate the school all you like, but don’t fool yourselves about the advantages that its former pupils enjoy.

    Leaving aside the connections that can be made at an early age, old Etonians are extremely well-educated and very confident. The three other Labour candidates are neither smart nor confident enough to cause the Tories any real trouble.

    Corbyn’s intellect dwarfs his rivals and his quiet confidence comes from the fact that he never lies about anything. He always knows what to say, because what he says is exactly what he feels.

    That’s what people look for in a leader. That’s why Corbyn packs out every meeting room he speaks in.

    How many would turn up to listen to Diane Abbott say much the same thing? Hardly anyone. She is evasive when it suits her, not especially bright and doesn’t look capable of leading someone across a deserted street without encountering some kind of disaster.

    People from across the whole political spectrum like and respect Jeremy Corbyn. He is the only choice.

  28. John P Reid says:

    Paul Barker, I dint want to bad mouth your team, but the Libdems have stood on manifestos well to the left of labour for 18 years,23 if you include the fact the were going to put the basic rate up of tax by 1p in 1992′ where labour said we weren’t, yet went into coalition with the Tories, the Centre ground has changed as the Toeies, by trying to restart, unions for Toeies,are trying to make a new centre ground, and labour weren’t that far from the centre in 2015′ the centre ground can afford to have 3 parties

  29. John P Reid says:

    Daniel Speight, when Gerorge Brown, Reg Prentice went Toey in 79′ labour percentage of vote fell from 39% to 37%’ I’m sure some people who switched to labour for the first time in 79′ voted SDP in 83 too

  30. paul barker says:

    On the news front, the latest poll gives Labour 28% & Coryns share of CLP nominations has grown from 36% to 38% in 3 days – he looks unstoppable now.
    Labour moderates can stay & be called A Virus or they can join The Libdems & be welcomed. Your choice.

  31. Madasafish says:

    Paul Barker.

    I estimate with Corbyn as Leader, Labour will poll under 25%…And if he’s got Ms Abbott in his Shadow Cabinet, even lower..

  32. historyintime says:

    Ideology aside, I really can’t see Jeremy Corbyn as Prime Minister and when the vote comes this will be reflected in a lower vote than the polls. Much like Milliband in the general election.

  33. paul barker says:

    Corbyns share of CLP nominations has grown from to 36% to 39% in just 4 days. CLPs are likely to be a good indication of how older, established members feel & these are the people least likely to back Corbyn. A shift of 3% in 4 days isnt a surge, its a tsunami. The question of what Labour moderates should do becomes more urgent.

  34. Landless Peasant says:

    Blairites should be expelled

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