I have been a contributor once or twice to the discussion on the realignment of British politics over the previous few years. After the last general election, I like many who wasn’t all that thrilled with the result, consoled myself the notion that the EU referendum would see a possible split in the Conservative Party. But now, in spite of the Cameron-Boris spat, I have to admit that I see no way that is going to happen any time soon.
The reason is simple: there is far too much going the Tories’ way to allow them that extravagance. One thing that was remarkable beyond anything else during the Boris-Dave handbags in the Commons this week was just how irrelevant it made Labour, but in particular Jeremy Corbyn, seem. All of the ideological ground was covered already by the governing party, thank you very much. And Jeremy’s lukewarm Stay In sentiments had no cut through in a room charged with the energy of a real political fight going down between Tory MPs.
All of this is relevant for an important reason: a lot of people on the Left seem to be putting pretty much all of their eggs in the “Tories will split over Europe” basket. I read an article yesterday by Natalie Bennett that is the apex of this trend – apparently the Conservative split will be so bad that there will an election called immediately after we vote to stay in, at which a Labour/Green coalition will be called upon to run the country. My worry about this mode of thinking is as follows (besides the thought of Jeremy Corbyn running the country, obviously): what I think will actually happen is that we vote to stay in during the referendum and then the Tories heal their wounds pretty quickly and just get on with things. By this time next year, I think people will be surprised just how united the Tories feel as a party. Meanwhile, a horrible May for Labour (Sadiq looking like the sole exception to that rule now) results in even further Labour infighting, getting nastier by the month as 2016 drags on for them. What this will do to the growing anti-democracy feeling on the Left, I don’t know, but it feels pretty ominous. Far from there being some general election in 2016 (which is the Left’s ultimate daydream at present; a re-run, essentially, but one in which the country wakes up to the “mistake” they made in May 2015), the rest of the parliament looks very much like a long hardening of Tory hegemony, leading to the next general election in 2019 or 2020, one that will almost certainly be a bloodbath for the Left.
Where it all goes from there, is anybody’s guess. All I know is that I have a tip for Natalie Bennett: I don’t think Caroline Lucas should start thinking about the drapes in her DECC office at present.