As I sat in a reception last night, the endless affairs one goes to at any political conference, I thought: so this is how the Left dies; not with a bang but a whimper. Like before last year’s Labour conference in Brighton we heard all about how the party’s divisions were going to be on violent display; there would be fights in the bar and the like. Yet in the end, it was much like last year in Brighton replayed: the Corbynites had won by so great a margin there was no need to gloat; the moderates weren’t prepared to press the nuclear button so there was nothing they could do but sit and stew.
Not all nastiness was banished, of course – it just took more subtle forms than punch-ups at midnight. At one event, Lisa Nandy gave a brief speech during which several young people several feet away heckled her. “Tory!” they yelled. When Lisa Nandy is being called a Tory, you realise fully just how ridiculous everything has got.
This was the smallest feeling Labour conference I’ve ever been to, by miles. McDonnell’s naming and shaming in last year’s speech plus the McDonalds and G4S debacles have resulted in a sharp decrease in the number of serious, external exhibitors. You kept hearing so much about how Labour is the biggest party in Europe – and yet there was no feeling of that in Liverpool at all. Rather it felt like one of the big beasts of world politics a decade ago had committed suicide and was feeling the long term effects really kicking in now.
Tory conference lies only a few days ahead. I have no doubt my arrival in Birmingham for said event will confirm the thoughts travelling around my head all week: the Left, even the centre-left, is dying. Momentum, Corbyn-mania and the membership surge feel like the last gasps of breath before meeting its maker. What happens when it becomes completely clear to everyone that no one but the Tories can win a general election anytime in the next 15 years, I don’t know. It scares me to think about.
Denial is rife on the Left, still, even in the most moderate sections. That’s why there was no prospect of a split. The PLP thinks it’s their party and they aren’t going anywhere as a result. While I can understand those feelings, they may look back on Liverpool 2016 as a missed opportunity.
The one hope Labour has of ending this nightmare relatively quickly is the trade unions. Many of the big wigs in the movement are becoming increasingly hostile to Corbyn, but Len still vociferously stands by his man. If McCluskey either changes tack or loses his job via the next Unite general secretary election then that could be a game changer; the Corbyn majority on the NEC is only so because of assumed trade union loyalty to the leadership. We have a situation in which McDonnell is announcing things that are antithetical to many union interests, and surely there is only so long that can continue before they decide as a bloc to oust Corbyn and his friends from control of the Labour party.
That may all come too late to save Labour, however. Again, the time for action is now – and yet as Liverpool shows, everyone is convinced it is the time to wait to see what comes next.
When do we find out whether they managed to pass the amendment allowing leadership candidates to go to the membership with only 5% of MPs nominating them? Isn’t that the most important thing now?
Edward Wynn says
As a business guy I specifically listed to McDonnell. Overall it was the most anti-business speach I have heard for a long time if ever. Threatening to tax wealth rather than income, proposing to put controls in which could change the way an entrepreneur cashes out is fundamentally stupid. He must know where most of the new jobs come from. If you were an entrepreneur or were minded to set up a business but faced paying tax on the capital value or your wealth why bother. Or it just incentives you to move the cash out and abroad. Completely wrong. As for the Regional banks – when it emerged it would be joint private capital instantly all of the profit requirements come back into play. The shadow Chief secretary to the treasury gave an interview of such monumental incompetence it was ludicrous. At the same time you have an unending stream of viscerally unpleasant individuals appearing with these senior politicians. The guy who tweated offensivel about Weston’s face should not have been allowed in the conference or fringe let alone appear on the same platform as Corbyn. Its a train smash
Lisa Gooch - Knowles says
Corbin is an idiot.
Where is he going to build all these new council homes?? not in London, there is no room. Maybe on the Green Belt perhaps?? Good luck with that
Trains never have and never will run on time, whoever owns them. why waste time money and resources on something that really doesn’t matter
The whole country voted for Brexit, like it or not. it was a vote against immigration. There has to be controls, it doesn’t make us raciest, calling more than half your party raciest is not the best of moves
Allowing members to be heckled as Tories
Giving unions more strike controls, whats that all about?? I remember the bin men strikes, and the rats.
Maybe, just maybe J.C has turned me into a Tory???
I’m not a Tory, or socialist, communist, or liberalist.
I’m a realist,
I think I will start my own party
The Realist party,
Len’s problem is that any challenge to him would come from the left, so he needs to cling to Corbyn to protect himself. What will be interesting is how it goes after the 2018 election (or more accurately would have been if the moderates hadn’t already fired their only shot)