The Telegraph, which admittedly is not the greatest place to gather news on what’s happening inside the Labour Party most of the time, has told us that the plan of the Labour moderates is to sit back until early 2017 and then try and reclaim some territory. This actually does chime with people I know on that side of Labour and what they are saying; essentially, Corbyn and the Left are too strong at the moment and early 2017 is the earliest any move against Corbyn could proceed.
What they plan to do in a little over a year’s time is found some new think tanks to get a policy platform going and to use 100,000 new, moderate members to help win a vote for the leadership, post-Cobyn coup, with whatever candidate the moderate members of the PLP swing behind. There are several problems with this. In fact, there are 100,000 problems with this.
The Telegraph yesterday had Mandelson saying that 30,000 moderate members have left the party since the election of Corbyn as leader. This chimes with the facts: indeed, the Labour Party itself has confirmed that figure. Whether they are all “moderates” who have left since September 12th is impossible to ascertain without polling a large chunk of them – however, it does stand to reason that most of those who departed would have done so out of dissatisfaction with Corbyn being leader of the party.
Which brings me back to the 100,000 figure. Let’s start with this: how would Labour’s moderate faction convince those 30,000 who have left in the last few months to return? I can’t see it, really. So then we come to the fact that you are trying to recruit this veritable army of centre-leftists willing to take on the Corbyn-McDonnell-Abbott axis and you start with 30k of your most potential soldiers unwilling to return. So who are these 100k? Where will they come from? There seems to be a chicken and egg problem here: I could see thousands of people potentially joining the Labour Party if there was an exciting, centrist candidate at the helm, but the problem here is that the Labour moderates need the 100,000 signed up already in order for the exciting, centrist candidate to win in the first place.
So what will happen then? Like I’ve said before, I think Corbyn will face the 2020 election as leader of the Labour Party. I don’t think it matters if Zac Goldsmith becomes mayor of London, or if Labour lose seats in the Scottish parliament, or if they do badly in Wales. None of that will convince the leftists to abandon their long dreamed of control of Labour. The Left need to reshape the PLP before Corbyn can retire, and that requires re-selections based on boundary changes to happen (and who would have thought inside of the Conservative Party that having boundary changes held off until this parliament would actually be to their long term benefit, as it will allow Labour to destroy themselves?). I think the 100,000 moderate members exist only in the minds of those who pine for them – or at the very least, they can’t materialise until a point at which they wouldn’t be quite so vital.
I still think the notion that Corbyn’s supporters are 250,000 die-hards is wrong. There are essentially three types of Corbyn supporters I think could change their minds on him.
One is the long term Labour member who was depressed after May, was uninspired by the other three candidates, realised we’d probably lose in 2020 and thought, hey, at least Corbyn would say the right things and give the Tories a hard time.
But many of these will be unimpressed by the sudden reappearance of Ken on the scene and the high profile of Abbot and McDonnell, will have unhappy memories of Militant in the 80s and be wary of going back to the days of reselections and the hard left, and will be particularly unhappy about the close connections with the STWC & its ilk. In essence they thought they were getting Old Labour, but they’ve got the Far Left. And worst of all, they’ll recognise Corbyn’s woeful performances and interviews for what they are. Kinnock could really get the hairs on the back of your neck rising, and at least gave the Tories a good bollocking at from time to time, whatever shortfalls he had elsewhere. Corbyn, hardly at all. The Tories are cruising.
The other type is the younger social liberals, the likes of which were voting Lib Dem 5 to 10 years ago but were attracted to Corbyn in the breezy summer days of the leadership campaign. The reality is that Corbyn’s light hearted and optimistic message has already withered away in the harsh glare of political reality and Corbyn’s reign is being characterised by endless internal battles of attrition and depressing stories. These voters will have a far shallower relationship with the party than other members, and while they probably wouldn’t go and vote for a centrist candidate, there’s a good chance they won’t vote at all in another leadership election.
The final type is the far left supporters who, as the far left often do, are keen to see betrayal or lack of purity. These will be former SWP/TUSC etc members who joined up due to Corbyn. They’ll either see the Labour Party as fundamentally corrupt (“Neo-liberal”) and see Corbyn as unable to change the party, or they’ll see Corbyn as a sell out and not a proper socialist after all. Again, these people wont vote for anyone else, but they’re more likely to not bother voting and drift back to one of the infinitude of far left acronyms that makes up socialism in the UK.
The moderate wing of the party still needs new members of course, and they desperately need a single candidate to rally around. But I think that by the time it becomes possible to challenge Corbyn in a leadership election, the figure won’t be 250,000, and much of the impetus behind his success this summer will be lost.