As Jeremy Corbyn prepares to become leader of the Labour Party, a position that I’m sure at no point in his sixty-six years prior to a few weeks ago he ever thought he’d achieve, his rivals on the centre-left console themselves with this analgesic: this will allow everyone to see the far-left for what it is, finally. After the Corbyn experiment runs its course, whatever the damage to the Labour Party done, at least everyone will be able to agree, post-83 election style, a “return to sanity” is required. Britain was never going to elect a far-left government. Ever. At this point, Labour can rebuild the way it did in the late-80s and early-90s, with I suppose the idea being that the 2035 general election results in a landslide Labour victory.
But oddly, this might actually be somewhat optimistic thinking on the centre-left’s part. Let’s think about two scenarios: one, Corbyn is deposed or quits at some point prior to the next general election. Two, Corbyn faces the next general election (in 2020, unless the Tories ditch the Fixed Term Parliament Act, which I wouldn’t wholly discount as a possibility).
Taking the first scenario, which I suppose in fairness is actually two sub-scenarios: I can’t see Corbyn being deposed under any circumstances. Lots of people point to the fact that things are really going to come to a head in spring, 2016; particularly the Scottish parliament elections and the London mayoral election. Here’s the thing – I think Labour will get massacred in Scotland (possibly finishing with less seats than the Tories, although I think they’ll just avoid this ignominy) and Zac Goldsmith will be the next London mayor. And you know what? Even if my predictions come true, I don’t see how Corbyn is moved aside. By what mechanism would it occur? The Corbyn phenomenon runs so much on faith, I don’t see how these results would affect him enough to shove him out. Scotland? That was Miliband and his lot’s fault (Ed having now been painted as some sort of Blairite in the Corbynista mythology). London mayor? Whomever runs as Labour’s candidate will be deemed too right-wing. Ken won twice and he was practically Che Guevara (one of the few times the Corbynistas will have a genuine point, actually).
So Corbyn will almost certainly stay until 2020 unless he quits. Which he may do, under the weight of it all. But if I was on the right of Labour, I certainly wouldn’t count on that coming to fruition. So the second of my scenarios comes to pass then, and Jeremy faces the masses. You already know what I think will happen: Labour will get annihilated. If there was nothing else – and I do mean nothing else – his views on NATO would be enough to ensure middle England never allows him within 50 seats of Number 10.
But after such an electoral beating, the third in a row in which Labour lose a reasonable amount of seats, surely then the far-left will be vanquished, correct? I don’t think so. It will be the Murdoch press, the saboteurs within the Labour Party; anyone else’s fault. It is the religious fervour that grips the far-left (I know having been entranced by it myself in my adolescence); they are right, always, and if others don’t grasp it, totally and completely, then they are in the wrong.
Perhaps, even, Jeremy himself will be seen to be unworthy; labelled a “Blairite” himself. When Corbyn is described by the far-left as a Blairite, you’ll know how loony things have got (imagine the day when Owen Jones, defending Corbyn to the end, starts getting called a Blairite on social media. Remember that you heard it here first). For some, you can never, ever really be left-wing enough to pass the purity test, as everyone who has had to face reality eventually can attest to. If you don’t belive me, go ask Alexis Tsipras.
You are overly-optimistic about the SNP. They will struggle to hold many of their seats, particularly as they have many inexperienced MPs who are not familiar with constituency case work. Likewise, the Conservatives have the disadvantage of being in government with a slender (12 seat) majority. This is likely to decrease further in 2020 (despite the gerrymandering that will occur before then).
Adam Hyde says
You’ve completely captured the grim sentiment of it all. I feel you’re right on the PLP removing Corbyn because of Scotland or London, but I don’t think him being there in 2020 is a forgone conclusion.
He’s very prone to completely missing the point and ending up having coffee with a Holocaust denier, defending the IRA, not properly condemning terrorists and refusing to reign in his more abusive death threat sending supporters. I agree cold hard facts won’t bring him down, but scandal might
James Bickle says
I think you’re right, Jeremy is going to find it a struggle if he wins. That said another scenario is what’s happened in Scotland is repeated UK wide in 2020, i.e exasperated voters lurch to the fringes. Corbyn Labour could scoop up Ukip voters and SNP voters in Scotland and scrape in. Another point is Jeremy is only as many degrees left as David Cameron is degrees right. So maybe a Corbyn win could be a useful chess move to force us to move back to the centre ground generally.
George Kendall says
If Jeremy Corbyn wins, and let’s not assume he will, if the Labour moderates can get rid of him before 2020, that won’t resolve the issue. The mythology will become that Corbyn could have delivered a truly socialist victory in 2015, but the ‘Blairites’ knifed him in the back.
If so, the Corbynites will remain, incredibly angry, and they’ll looking for any opportunities to deselect, and otherwise undermine, any moderate Labour MP.
It’ll be ugly, and very bad for our democracy.
Huw Jones says
I would guess that the main reason that many Labour members vote for Corbyn, is that they imagine they know what he stands for. They find that this is a refeshing change from Blaire who described himself as New Labour, and then started introducing all sorts of Tory Privatisation type policies. That was also the problem with our Coaltition leaders who were not prepared to break up the coalition when 1million people were using food banks, which is why many of us voted for a more obviously left wing candidate for leader. As a constituent, I would rather have an MP whose philosophy was clear, who would represent my views according to a commonly held philosophy, rather than a weather vane character who would vote for anything simply to keep the Murdoch press happy and keep his job. After the police now have fairly strong reason to suspect that that monster of the press may have been “corporately criminal”, and we need leaders with the backbone to stand up to criminals.
I’m not sure that I know enough about Corbyn to welcome him as the leader of any party, or to be able to predict his longevity in such a post, but I do understand why he has more support than others whose main preoccupation seems to be their own careers. If he gets the Labour leadership, Corbyn is probably safe until a rival emerges who is strong enough to resist pressures from the press, and to stand up for the Party’s principles.