A YouGov poll out today, with the fieldwork having been done just last week, makes extremely sober reading for anyone within Labour or indeed anyone on the centre-left generally who isn’t down with Project Corbyn.
Labour members were asked if they thought Corbyn was doing well or badly as leader. The numbers are: WELL 72% BADLY 27% DK 1%. 53% of members think Labour are on course for victory at the next general election against 42% who do not think so. So around 20% of all Labour members think that Corbyn is doing well as leader but won’t win the next election, which is interesting.
When asked if there was another leadership contest who would get their first preference, 43% of Labour members choose Jeremy Corbyn. In second place is Andy Burnham – on 10%.
In short, Jeremy Corbyn is going nowhere and any attempted coup against him would fail. So what do the Labour moderates do now?
This is a remarkably difficult question to answer. A coup, as I say, will not work and they know it. This leaves two options, broadly. Either stick around and watch it all go down in flames while still on board, or split the party. Both are bad choices, and as any psychologist will tell you, trying to decide between two negative outcomes is one of the hardest things to do.
Having said that, one is definitely bad and one is just unbelievably risky. Sticking around offers no hope whatsoever, other than that somehow defeat in 2020 will bring the membership to its senses a la post-83. But it won’t – the defeat will be blamed on anyone but Corbyn. The Blairites, the right-wing media, the Zionist banking conspiracy, anyone but Jeremy and his platform. Either Corbyn will stick around or he’ll be replaced by a Corbynite.
Having said that, speak to anyone involved in the SDP if you want to know how difficult it is to create a new political party. However badly Corbyn does as leader over the next few years, however alienated parts of the party’s traditional support base ebb away, he has time on his side. There are still places in England and Wales where a donkey with a red rosette pinned to it could win and that won’t change overnight. Or at least, it isn’t terribly likely.
It’s easy for me to say they should just go for it. Get a good chunk this time round, at least 100 MPs, and strike out on their own. But it’s not my career on the line and I’m not in the middle of it either. I’m glad I’m not either – the choice that faces a lot of the PLP at present is a horrible one.