Happy 2019 to you all. As we enter the new year, I reflect on the past month and feel like a certain bridge may have been crossed by Team Corbyn that will be tricky to cross back the other way. An interview in the Guardian had Corbyn saying that in the event of a general election, Labour would campaign on a platform of continuing with Brexit, only seeking what Corbyn describes as a better deal than the one May managed to acquire.
There was nothing new in this position – it has been Corbyn’s position on Brexit since June 24th, 2016. Labour had campaigned in the last election on a similar platform. Only now it felt different to many Remainers on the Left. A lot of them had always consoled themselves with the idea that Corbyn was “playing the long game” – now that we’ve reached a critical stage in the Brexit process, many feel like the time for him to show his supposed Remainer colours has come due.
What has unfolded since has seen the Left, and by that I mean the proper Left, the bit that has always supported Corbyn since the start, divided in two. One side abandoning Corbyn due to his Brexit position, the other doubling down on all things Corbz. The battle between these two sides is getting more and more heated by the day. As you would expect, those who have stayed faithful to Corbyn have taken to calling the Remainers who have fallen out of love with Magic Grandpa “Blairites” or even “Tories”; even more ridiculously, they claim that all these supposed Blairite/Tory types who were in Momentum five minutes ago being mean to poor, delicate Jeremy has caused them to become Leavers.
It was always debatable whether Labour could win a general election without more moderate members staying in the fold; shorn of the anti-Brexit bit of the proper Left, that task has become a lot more difficult. Now, it is hard to say how many people really won’t vote Labour due to the Brexity positioning of Corbyn, when push comes to shove. After all, he was pretty Brexity last GE and that did him no harm with Remain voters at all. Only, this starts to sound an awful lot like how Blair used to view the proper Left – where are they going to go? We can take them for granted. The only major difference is that I think voters now are more fickle than they were in the late-90s, and the Remainers are less likely to vote Labour now than I think the old Left was willing to vote New Labour back then.
Corbyn is still convinced that he has to appeal to Labour Leave voters in order to win an election. The problem he hasn’t faced yet is that in pursuit of this he may be splitting the Left in a way that makes it so it cannot be put back together again. A semi-permanent schism could be being created right now, one that disunites the Left for a generation. The likely beneficiaries may be the Conservative party (this could, in fact, save the Conservative party), but that doesn’t make it any less likely.