Tory campaigners in Copeland are feeling very confident. Most of this comes from what they are hearing on the doorstep.
“It’s like nothing I’ve ever heard. You turn up to former Labour voters houses thinking you’re going to have to make an anti-Corbyn case and they’re way ahead of you. The dislike of Corbyn is so profound.”
An anecdote I heard involved an ex-miner who said his hatred of Cobryn runs so deep he is going to vote Tory for the first time ever. He expressed thanks that his father was not alive to witness this.
All of this presents a problem that Labour moderates haven’t come close to coming to terms with. They still have an idea that once Corbyn goes, Labour can return to former glories under a new leader. But given the nature of what the Labour Party is and why people have voted consistently for it in certain parts of the country over the last century, I’m not sure that that’s the case.
Part of the consistency of the Labour vote has been around seeing Labour as either the source of goodness in politics, or as the working man’s vote. Both of these are being damaged by Corbyn’s leadership in a way that is starting to become irreversible. People vote Labour with the heart – this is one of the great strengths of their brand. The downside to this is once you break that habit, going back to it will be very difficult for some and impossible for most. It’s like breaking up with someone.
People vote Tory with their heads. That is why any talk of the Conservative Party being in its death throes is always false. Voters can always return to the Tories since to do so is executed as a “rational choice”. Some swing voters can be convinced to vote Labour with their head, and that swing vote has been invaluable in getting Labour into government in many instances, but it rests upon that army of people voting Labour because that’s just what they do. When that breaks down, there is no way to get it back. And I think it really is starting to break down, very possible for good.
This is why the New Labour gang are failing at present – they are trying to pull a sinking ship back to sea level by tugging on its sails. I think a backup plan for what happens if (when?) Labour melts completely needs to start being discussed in earnest by Labour moderates. Although Corbyn is the figurehead for all of this, it runs deeper: the gap between the progressive centre and the Left has become too huge, and grows wider every day. I think bringing back together the large tent that sustained Labour for almost a hundred years is breaking down – rapidly. How centrist politics gets saved needs to become the priority.