To an outside observer, the political strategy being pursued by the Labour leader’s office appears to be shockingly idiotic. They are advocating going ahead with what would be a reasonably hard Brexit, but not one that any self-identified hard Brexiteer would be happy with. To boot, it is mostly built around things that are either logically impossible or have been or definitely would be rejected by the EU.
This week, Corbyn went on TV and said that if he became prime minister, the UK would leave the EU no matter what; as night follows day, the Lib Dems overtake them in an EU election voting intention poll. And more because the Labour number has shrunk to an amazingly tiny size than anything else – the LDs are on 16% in the poll, hardly earth shattering, while Labour are on a minuscule 15%. It is notable that this is the first time the Lib Dems have overtaken Labour in a national poll of any kind since the 2010 general election campaign, more than nine years ago.
Ah, but that’s only because we’re all thinking too small here. These EU elections, see, they don’t actually matter in the grand scheme of things. Yes, Labour might do poorly, but so what. The most important thing is to keep Leave voters in swing seats on side. They are who will matter come the next general election. All of these people who will be voting Lib Dem and Green next week, when there is the prospect of another Tory government on the horizon, they’ll know that voting Labour is the only way to stop that and hop back on board the Corbyn express. They can be taken for granted and are being taken for granted, very blatantly at present, in other words. Boris or Raab or someone suitably evil Tory will take over from Theresa May shortly as prime minister as well. Labour’s Brexity behaviour will pale into insignificance then.
Except, politics never works this way, and it’s always best to look at the here and now. In 2014, Labour backed the No side of the Scottish independence debate; less than a year later, the SNP wiped them out in Scotland almost entirely. In other words, there is precedent for Labour taking their voters for granted backfiring very badly on them within the last five years.
It is very possible that those people voting Lib Dem and Green next week find doing so pleasing – and decide to keep doing it. At least, enough of them to deny Labour a majority, or even largest party status come the next general election. These things also start to pick up a momentum all their own. They are also – and you can ask the Lib Dems themselves about this – very hard to reverse once they’ve gone far enough.
As well, relying on the Tories to pick some pantomime villain who is also a total moron to boot is a very risky strategy for Labour. Yes, looking at the list of those who are running I can see how it would be easy to lull yourself into a false sense of security, but let’s just imagine Boris wins, which is far from impossible. Boris is many things, but a politically strategic idiot he is very far from. I would bet on him to run rings around Labour’s terrible Brexit policy in a way the lead-footed May could never manage. Labour have left themselves so open to this, someone less able and with more political scruples than Boris (read: some political scruples) could probably still manage it.
Look, I don’t mind if the Labour Party wants to destroy itself. But it is sort of weird to watch it unfold in real time.