To start with, I am in no way wavering in my prediction: Corbyn will be Labour leader in four days time. So the following is simply an academic exercise. Call it a thought process for those moderates in Labour who want to survive the Corbyn era.
Saturday, September 12, 2015. The day many of us are overjoyed has come, if only because it means the interminable Labour leadership contest is at an end. Someone comes out centre stage at the special conference to announce what we all feel is the inevitable.
“And the winner is…..Andy Burnham!” (I do appreciate that the new leader will not be announced as if this was all a game show, but hey, this is a piece of mirthful speculation so allow me my moment of fun here).
What happens next? Andy will have to come on stage and give an awkward, off the cuff speech, further denting his leadership credentials. “I would like to thank Jeremy for everything….oh wait, I can go back to not caring about him anymore, sorry…”
The left of Labour and it’s £3 affiliates will go somewhat apeshit at this point. Forget about the fact that the purged voters only amounted to around 4,000 – this will be immediately seized upon as sabotage, perpetrated by Labour’s upper echelons. The right of Labour will pile in to congratulate Andy – suddenly a Blairite hero once again – adding further to the Left’s sense of being cheated. Having had a taste of power, they won’t go back quietly into the shadows. Burnham will be stuck for however long his leadership of the party lasts between trying to hold on to the moderate’s good will for having beat Corbyn, and trying to keep the Left on side and energised. If you want to understand how that will look and feel, simply review his leadership election campaign. Yes, it really could be that bad.
Worse, Labour would now be saddled with a man who has as much chance of being prime minister as well, Jeremy Corbyn ever did. Which is to say, zero.
But what happens if the person at special conference instead tells us: “And the winner is….Yvette Cooper!”? That could be even worse. At least Burnham was seen as a bit of a leftie coming into the whole contest. Cooper has made it clear which side of the fence she stands on. The Left will not only feel like a stitch-up from HQ has gone down, they will see the ascension of Cooper as an act of civil war. Which they will duly act upon.
However much Yvette matures as leader of the opposition, she will have the Militant B team screaming at swing voters the whole time: “We come as part of the package you know!” So whatever she does, she’ll be saddled with a civil war backdrop that will make Labour unelectable.
So I guess everyone better hope that I’m right and Jeremy Corbyn has it in the bag. Because as messy as his leadership will be, it could be a whole lot worse.