The Labour Party’s turmoil

Labour Leadership2 2015

CandidateMembersRegistered SupportersAffiliated SupportersTotal% of Valid Vote
BURNHAM, Andy55,6986,16018,60480,46219.04%
COOPER, Yvette54,4708,4159,04371,92817.02%
CORBYN, Jeremy121,75188,44941,217251,41759.48%
KENDALL, Liz13,6012,5742,68218,8574.46%
ABC (Anyone But Corbyn)123,76917,14930,329171,24740.52%

The 2015 Labour leadership election was not nearly close. The only aspect in which it was close was between existing members and the anyone-but-Corbyn combination of candidates (ABC), a lead of ~2000 members that was wiped out by even just the affiliated supporters (trade unions and other member-based Labour-supporting organisations), before the massive advantage within registered supporters was considered. The turnout was given at 76%, with a  total electorate of 554,272 voters. That suggests that 130,000 did not vote, and even if they were all members (which is unlikely), the party has grown further under Corbyn’s leadership to over 388,000 registered members at the end of 2015. The number must not have exceeded 400,000 yet, the big milestone achieved in 1997, but the Labour website claims membership is still over 380,000. Assuming a significant proportion of those who joined after Corbyn’s election to leader, that suggests he would have comfortable support within the Labour membership.

Of course, there are suggestions that the Corbynistas who joined are fair-weather politicos, and that they will leave when their membership lapses. This is probably the case for some, but what proportion will not be clear, and a leadership challenge may well encourage them back to defend Corbyn unless a credible alternative is proposed.

And that, for me, is the key point. Numbers matter to the politicians, but they are the result of arguments won for individuals support, and the only way a significant number of Corbynistas and supporters will be won over to ABC is by a credible alternative, not for the centre of the Labour party, but for the left of it. The PLP is distinctly lacking in credible left-wing leadership material, and any who oppose Corbyn may well be signing their death-warrant.

Which leads me to the logical conclusion of this sorry affair for the Labour party: it must split. The ABC MPs (I love my acronyms!) have wanted this from the moment “their” party got “hijacked” by Corbynistas joining in their hundreds of thousands. This is the ABC MP’s problem – their party is no longer theirs by right, and the odds are probably stacked against them. The two possible split scenarios are obvious – either Corbyn’s supporters start a new Momentum-based party, or the ABC MPs start a new SDP-like party. Neither side wants to be the group to start a new party as they have seen how hard it is for new parties to break through our intransigent FPTP system, even as incumbents in the case of many SDP MPs in the 1980s.

As a Corbyn supporter I may be biased, but my support is based on the following observations: centrist policies which basically kowtow to big business are no longer popular. Inequality has grown at a tremendous rate, and the precariat is growing into the traditional middle-class. English wealth is strongly based on house price rises, and the unfairness of this system, as well as some of the unpredictability over the past 10 years, is beginning to bite regionally, not to mention through crazy private rental costs.

I think Corbyn will not lose whatever happens, unless he gives up. He is unfailingly decent and honest in how he conducts himself. He is unfailingly loyal to the Labour party, despite what his detractors claim. He may have rebelled against the whip over 500 times, but he, again unfailingly, did this on conscience grounds. His supporters are aware of this, and once he has a party behind him, rather than constantly sniping or just standing quietly and unsupportive whilst unfair accusations are hurled at him, then the public will become aware of this and he will be the credible left-wing alternative that the SNP have seized in Scotland. Who knows, Labour may even fight back in Scotland if the SNP are too scared to formally call for another independence referendum.

Whether I am right or wrong, the most important thing is that the party split happens asap. Corbyn is not going to give up on Labour, so to avoid a leadership election we must hope that private polling amongst the 172 MPs who have voted against Corbyn suggests that they have no chance and that they choose to start the new party before any leadership challenge. This seems unlikely though, so we may be set for another 3 or 4 months of turmoil before any dust gets any opportunity of settling…

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