Several myths have become dominant in Westminster since the last general election – I will only speak of two here and only one of them in-depth. The first is that Labour are certain to win the next general election. The other, which has taken longer to solidify and is even more ridiculous, is that the Labour Party is united.
I’ll pick up on the latter myth. I was struck by something James Forsyth wrote in the Spectator this week. He was talking about May’s difficulty in getting Labour votes for her deal and said something to the effect that it would be impossible to get 117 votes from Labour without Corbyn’s approval. Obviously having Corbyn’s backing for something is very valuable as he has the whip in his hand as well as the frontbench votes in his pocket, so if he signs off on something it is worth a lot of votes. This does not mean that it is impossible to get Labour votes for a deal. Here, I’ll do the maths: 71 Labour MPs have come out for a second referendum. If May decided the only way to hold onto her deal was via offering this group a referendum on her deal if it passes, she’d have about 200 on her side, the 71 Labour votes (at least), 35 SNP, 11 Lib Dems and about 4 others. That’s 321, which neatly gives her a majority for her deal. There are any number of reasons the prime minister may not wish to go down this road, but to suggest she cannot get a deal without Corbyn is patently untrue.
I read this kind of stuff all the time. There is this odd pretence that no one will break out of that just because the moderates are silent they don’t still all loathe Corbyn or wouldn’t move to a new party if they felt that option had any real legs. One of the big reasons it seems to me that a lot of Labour MPs are still hanging around is directly due to Brexit – they figure it is better to try and keep Labour together as the best option for attenpting to stop no deal Brexit, or pushing Corbyn into a second referendum. Once either the deal goes through or a second referendum comes and goes, whatever the result, I don’t see how Labour won’t explode into civil war. Yes, I know, we’ve all said that before and it hasn’t happened. Yet I think this has just lulled Westminster into a weird sense of complacency regarding the cohesion of the Labour Party that someday soon we will look back upon and find laughably quaint.