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.
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
Hm, though, ‘coming out for a second referendum’ in the newspapers is a very different thing from actually voting against the whip, especially given fear that to do so (especially in a vote that could be soun as saving a Tory PM’s bacon and postponing a general election) would jump one immediately onto Momentum’s target list for deselection.
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
But why are the moderates silent? It’s got to be because they’re afeart, hasn’t it? So while they might not be united that same fear is going to stop them doing anything anti-Corbyn that’s too hard to walk back. Mouthing off in a newspaper, well, everyone does that. But voting with a hated Tory PM? You really think that’s on the cards?
Paul W says
Labour appears united because it is in opposition. It doesn’t need to present detailed policies or make hard choices. For the moment, it just needs to oppose anything the wicked Tory government brings forward, saying it would do it (whatever it is) better or differently or will simply abolish it.
The Labour moderates are silent because they are clearly hoping something will turn up (or the Corbynist wave will turn down and run out of steam). Some will slip away from parliamentary politics altogether at the next election in disappointment, despair or, more likely, in relief. Indeed, a few have gone already. Either that, or they are what Mrs Thatcher would have called ‘wet’.