29 April 2017

Only a ballot-box massacre can save Labour


Will he or won’t he? In any other situation it would be unthinkable for someone about to lead their political party off an electoral cliff to even consider clinging to office afterwards. Yet the question is nervously being asked of Jeremy Corbyn.

Such is the fanaticism of the hard-Left movement he has unwittingly found himself fronting (other way round, Jeremy) that even the historic kicking about to be delivered by British voters may not force him out. Instead, it is argued, he will plod remorselessly on, a blank-eyed zombie either too stubborn or too stupid to accept that the game is up.

Or he is merely the puppet of John and Diane and Seumas, who will not allow him to fall on his sword until the succession is sewn up for whichever Trot no-hoper they next pull out of their cauldron? Either way, the prospect should nauseate anyone who cares about the democratic health of the country.

It looks as if the warnings were right all along: the Corbyn coup was never about winning an election – how could it have been? – nor about truly testing the popularity of an authentically and unapologetically socialist programme at the polls. Instead, the plan was to drain the Labour Party of any kind of electoral potency, to kill it as either a serious opposition or a government-in-waiting, with all the compromises these entail, and to reduce it to a cadaverous shell fit only for conspiracy-theorist cranks and sinister Jew-baiters.

The “Momentum Kids” plan – providing childcare and, presumably, indoctrination for a new generation of deadheads – gave the game away: a long-term, Hamas-style construction of an extra-Parliamentary social movement. Completely potty, deeply un-British.

The Corbynites claim to walk in the footsteps of the “real” Labour tradition, but the great patriots of, say, Attlee’s Cabinet would have despised them. Michael Foot, for all his political flaws, was a serious intellectual – Corbyn cannot speak and think at the same time, while his backroom team cannot efficiently carry off the most basic tasks. They are not just wrong, they are rubbish.

It will be fascinating to pick apart the numbers on June 9. The hard-Left claims to have the interests of the poorest, the most vulnerable, the working class, at heart. Yet these people, if they vote at all, will overwhelmingly vote Tory or Ukip in the south, and SNP in Scotland.

Labour’s support will come largely from the kind of fervent social justice warrior who has enough spare time and cash to patronise his social inferiors in the name of class war – and there just aren’t that many of them. The Tories will have a landslide majority not just to deliver a Brexit of whichever stripe they fancy, but to continue the domestic austerity agenda and to shape the future economy as they see fit. They will be able to do it all unopposed, for years to come. In this light, the scale and consequences of Labour’s betrayal are breathtaking.

The hard Left knows that if it loses control of the party after June it will be done for good. The farce of the last two years will not be forgotten, nor forgiven. So now its members are attempting to fiddle the internal rules so that a leadership candidate can stand if backed by only five per cent of MPs, as opposed to the current 15 per cent.

However even without this change, as John Rentoul has pointed out, a heavy general election loss will bring down the number of MPs needed to reach the 15 per cent threshold: “Naturally, Corbynites tend to be in safe Labour seats, so a catastrophic defeat for the party won’t affect most of them.”

I find it all genuinely heartbreaking. It’s awful to watch some of the party’s brightest talents quit politics in despair or disillusionment. It’s infuriating that a bunch of ideological obsessives from the bottom of the barrel are blithely destroying one of the UK’s two great vehicles for social change. And the very idea it could be allowed to continue after June is enraging.

So for me, and I hope for you, this is an ABL election – Anyone But Labour. The only hope I can locate is that the humiliation about to be visited on the party is so complete, so shockingly great, so unprecedentedly painful, that not even the most shameless Trot could credibly consider carrying on. Let’s show these hideous goons there is no floor to our contempt. Let’s show them who’s boss.

Chris Deerin is a political commentator