Well, that was an edge-of-the-seat moment, wasn’t it – a penalty shoot-out for the future of Her Majesty’s Opposition that nobody could predict the result of. Sorry, pardon the sarcasm. Unlike the fevered speculation that always ignites whenever there’s a vacancy for the job of Doctor Who, James Bond or the England team manager, the question over the Labour leadership was a non-starter from the moment Angela Eagle launched her ill-fated bid after the frontbench exodus in the aftermath of Brexit. As expected, Jezza the Messiah has consolidated his grip on the party, wiping the floor with the hapless Owen Smith, and he can now continue with the task of leading the British people out of the wilderness.
The week leading up to today’s leadership election result has seen some of the less principled Labour MPs who walked away from the Shadow Cabinet in a mass hissy fit meekly reverse their previous opposition to Corbyn, declaring they would happily rejoin Team Jeremy now that the coup has utterly fizzled out and their chances of forming an alternative opposition have collapsed completely. If Jezza has anything about him at all, he won’t be making any approaches to them. Indeed, the PLP majority who have made their feelings clear about Corbyn’s leadership are now confronted by a perplexing dilemma.
When the Gang of Four exited the Labour Party in 1981 and formed the SDP, many felt they should have stayed put and wrestled control from the far left and its Militant affiliates; some never forgave them for what they perceived as a dereliction of duties. Whilst there aren’t any current Labour MPs with the kind of clout the likes of Roy Jenkins or David Owen possessed at the time, there remains a sizeable body of Labour Parliamentarians facing the fact that the membership are backing Corbyn and not them. So where do they go? Let’s face it, not being able to call on the services of Tristram Hunt, Chukka Umunna or Liz Kendall is hardly going to give Corbyn any sleepless nights; but Emily Thornberry? Diane Abbott? With those names on your side, 2020 can hardly be pencilled in as the date Labour finally set up shop at the Promised Land.
Jezza’s winning speech after the inevitable was announced saw him insist the kind of intimidation and online abuse that has characterised his devoted following was not his way and not the Labour way; but it is the Momentum way. And while Corbyn himself is someone who comes across as a largely likeable individual, the sinister double-barrelled Trots and borderline anarchists who have turned him into a Gandhi for Generation Snowflake are immensely worrying. If – and this is a big if – this country should ever elect Corbyn as PM, it’s difficult to foresee anything other than a virtual Vichy Government, with Jezza as an oblivious frontman for ulterior motives of a nature that would make the deep divisions that were exposed in the EU Referendum seem like a minor kerfuffle in a primary school classroom that can be curtailed by the intervention of a supply teacher.
The ‘number crunching’ sections of ‘Private Eye’ are occasional eye-openers that make a point succinctly; a recent one pointed out that an estimated 2,500 turned out for yet another of those seemingly endless Corbyn rallies, this time in Sheffield, whereas 1,279 was the number who voted Labour at a Council Election in the same city a month later, one that the Lib Dems won on a 31.8 swing – yes, that’s right; the bloody Lib Dems! Translating cult appeal to a national phenomenon is an impossible mission that I don’t believe Labour under Corbyn has yet to grasp; and the fact that traditional Labour heartlands are populated by disgruntled voters that are not only at odds with the Blairite vision of Britain but also Jezza’s equally out-of-touch idyll suggests a state of blissful denial on the part of Team Jeremy that will only result in another General Election disaster four years from now. And we haven’t even broached the tricky subject of Scotland, where even the bleedin’ Tories – never mind the SNP – have capitalised on the abysmal Labour performance.
The third-way mess that the class of Professional Politician has left not just this country but both Western Europe and the US in over the last couple of decades has understandably provoked a vociferous reaction in passionate grass-roots movements; and I see no discernible difference between the far-right protests of the Tea Party in the States or the Corbynistas here. But neither has offered anything other than a series of grievances with the ruling elite, ultimately defined by what they are opposed to rather than what they stand for, grievances that are regularly manifested as infantile vitriolic hatred towards the competition that rarely rises above playground name-calling. Unlikely figureheads, whether Jezza or Trump, have been pushed forward as unlikely saviours while the background boys with the nefarious agenda plot their takeover strategies with little or no care for what this will do to the actual electorate.
The infiltration of Labour by the Momentum virus, with threats of MP de-selection if the MPs in question oppose the Corbyn master-plan, hardly points to a democratic future for Labour. This also echoes Militant nightmares of the 80s, and Corbyn’s insistence that intimidation is not part of his makeup doesn’t carry much weight when the evidence of his supporters’ intentions is so blatant. His anticipated triumph in a challenge that was undertaken in the absence of any charismatic or convincing opponent is symptomatic of the sorry state of a once-great party that doesn’t bode well for mainstream politics or the supposed alternative to a Conservative Party that hasn’t been in such a privileged position for thirty years.
© The Editor