27 September 2015

Here’s how moderate Labour must fight back against Jeremy Corbyn


Labour’s new leader gave an interview on the BBC’s Marr programme this weekend and because he didn’t fall over or smash the coffee table with a statuette of Stalin it has been hailed as a success. Corbyn’s relaxed manner – Islington grandpa down the allotment talking about his wood carvings – won him good reviews. Might Corbyn turn out to be ok?

No. Don’t fall for it for a second. Corbyn is not cuddly or just a little bit misunderstood. The man is a hardline menace who is on course to destroy the Labour party, the main source of opposition in the UK. If he gets away with it will leave the Tories unchallenged, which even thinking Tories acknowledge is a dangerous idea and a threat to the UK’s democracy.

The infiltration of Labour, as the hard left flocks to Corbyn’s banner, establishing a party within a party, is terrifying. But acting terrorised is not enough of a response. Moderate MPs have told the Sunday papers about the activities of the hard left in their constituencies, as the Corbynites gear up to force mainstream MPs out when they get control of reselection battles. Corbyn’s allies are pushing for mandatory reselections and purges.

And it is not just the followers who are dangerous. Corbyn himself has been on the wrong side of the argument on many of the biggest challenges facing Britain in the last forty years. He doesn’t just equivocate on the IRA. He is a confirmed supporter of a united Ireland who regards action taken by the terrorists and the British army as equivalent. The Peace Process, which he opportunistically hides behind, had nothing to do with him. The Corbynites reject Ulster’s right to self-determination and are praised by Gerry Adams.

On the Cold War Corbyn was in the wrong place. Ditto the Falklands War. His views on 9/11 and the death of Bin Laden are screwy.

Now Labour is stuck with this grotesque figure as leader, how should sane Labour, shellshocked moderate Labour, respond?

This is not a question of undertaking fiddly manoeuvres in parliament, and trying to win a victory here and there on welfare reform or Europe. That won’t work because the left is out to take over the party entirely and run the moderates out of town. The moderates either stand and fight for their party or lose.

So depressed are the sensible people in the party that what I am about to suggest will be greeted with a rolling of the eyes. If they’re right then they are saying there is no point so they might as well surrender. They might as well give up now if they think that. Alternatively, if they want to save Labour, they should do the following:

1) The moderates need to start an alternative movement, within Labour, immediately. Scrap all the old think tanks and what is left of the Blairite talking-shops. Establish one rival to the Jeremy4leader organisation which is using the information it collected during the leadership race to dig in and prepare for war. Set up a rival now.

2) Go to every Labour donor who has given in the last 15 years. Say this is a national emergency. It is. Ask them to help establish a national pressure group – Mainstream Labour, Moderate Labour, Labour for Britain, call it what you like, there are Labour-leaning ad people who can help. Not all of them will give money but some will. Establish regional offices. Hold events. Be a rallying point. Think, think, and think again about economics, which most moderates in Labour subcontracted twenty years ago to Brown and then Brown/Balls. Try and come up with that elusive thing that mainstream Labour lacks: an idea, a vision of how a modern centre-left party might respond to rapid technological and economic change.

3) Develop alternative leaders. Encourage them to write, speak and tour the country. Who will be the leader who ultimately takes over? Don’t know. But come on, get organised and see what emerges.

4) Every moderate Labour MP in the country should knock on the doors of as many voters as possible, looking for non-Corbynite voters who have voted Labour in the past. Put to them this simple message. Labour is in mortal danger. Sorry, the party has made terrible mistakes, and must start listening to mainstream voters, but that can only happen if decent people around the country join up to outvote the hard left. Ask them to sign up either for £3 status or for full membership. It will be hard pounding and difficult work. Many people will say no. But if 200 Labour MPs could sign up 500 people each on that basis that’s 100,000 new members and a bulwark against the extremists. It would be just a start, and proper use of social media could help broaden the campaign.

5) Don’t mildly “welcome” it when Corbyn retreats or compromises on defence or the monarchy or the economy. Shout it from the roof tops. He’s a power-hungry sell-out heading a Jez We Can movement that is about purity. The hard left will hate him wearing a poppy and being nice to the Queen. Rub their noses in it. They love a betrayal narrative and will split and fragment under pressure.

6) Accept that not establishing such a rescue mission will mean oblivion. By the time Corbyn or his equally hard left successor has to face the electorate it will be too late because the reselection wars will have destroyed Labour’s already weakened moderate wing. The Corbynite hard left is getting ready. The moderates need to pull themselves together and reinvent how they do politics.

MPs who dismiss such advice, and say that what matters is to keep the Labour family together and that Jeremy’s supporters are just a little over enthusiastic, are delusional or useful idiots unintentionally doing the hard left’s work. They are the political equivalent of those who decline to put their life jackets on and get on deck when the alarm is sounded onboard a ship. Corbyn will sink Labour, unless he is stopped.

Iain Martin is Editor of CapX.