Charlie Falconer has said on the BBC that Labour must unify in late-September, whatever the result of the Labour leadership contest is.
“We’ve got to have the leadership election, we’ll get a result in the leadership election, then we as a party have got to unify. There’s more speculation about an early election. We as a party have got to come together. In relation to what the party has got to do, it’s got to be able to present to the public coherent unified prospectus for government, if we can’t do that then we are divided and we are incredibly vulnerable.”
More avoidance of reality here: Labour are divided and are incredibly vulnerable, whomever wins the leadership contest. It is now an inescapable fact.
The leadership contest is binary, so lets examine each result and its predictable aftermath. Let’s start with the less likely one – Owen Smith wins. Fine, the PLP now has a leader who cares about parliamentary democracy and its basic rules once again. But the hard left will still have basic control over the NEC while also having Momentum. Do you really think they are all going to just go quietly into the night? Momentum could easily just become its own party, taking a large chunk of the Labour membership along with it. Momentum and Labour could then find themselves against each other for seats, splitting the left vote and allowing right of centre parties a freer hand at landing seats that would have been previously out of the question.
And this is the best case scenario. Corbyn is the overwhelming favourite to win again and what happens after he does so? For all the talk of unity and a split being out of the question, why would the PLP simply submit to Corbyn? He’s openly talking about reselection anyhow, so why stick around? Particularly when you factor in Corbyn’s comments about not quitting even if Labour lost a general election.
So I don’t see how it happens, this re-unification. Corbyn and the vast majority of the PLP are on completely different pages about what a left of centre party should be doing right now. There is simply no middle ground between them, and besides, even if there was, Corbyn isn’t interested in finding it given he has an activist army devoted to him, the membership on his side and a way of electing leaders that means so long as he keeps the membership on side he’s indestructible.
If Labour could work out a way to stay together, that would be preferable for all involved, obviously. Having the hard left and the centre left competing for votes is suicide against a (for now) united Conservative Party. Yet, I find it hard to see it happening.