The Labour Party is in political free-fall – a fact bizarrely underlined by Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell on the Marr Show yesterday. McDonnell turned directly to face the camera to warn that there was a “small group” out there willing to destroy the party just to remove Jeremy Corbyn. Set aside the hypocrisy of hard left bully boy McDonnell blaming devotees of parliamentary democracy for Labour’s plight. His over-wrought appeal to Corbyn’s critics to stop it now merely served to dramatise the scale of the crisis now enveloping the organisation that only a decade ago was sweeping to its third straight general election victory.
Now, under a leader whose faux piety is matched only by his venomous nature, Labour resembles the ruins of a bombed out city. Its voters have lost confidence in its members; its members have lost confidence in their MPs, its MPs have lost confidence in their leader, and the country has lost confidence in the whole darned shooting match.
The Shadow Cabinet has resigned en masse, Labour MPs have voted overwhelmingly to withdraw support from Corbyn, reports of verbal and physical threats and abuse are rife. All pretence to be Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition (and thereby a government in waiting) has been abandoned. And still the ghastly Corbyn, like a zombie survivor of some dreadful holocaust, limps on towards another leadership election, which he will surely win, partly because of his legions of moronic, cultish followers and partly because Labour has seemingly lost not the will to power, but the will to live.
The latest opinion poll gives Labour 29 per cent of the popular vote (worse than its drubbing in the general election), 11 points behind the Conservatives. But should Corbyn ever make it to a general election – an unimaginable prospect – the scale of his party’s defeat would be much worse than that suggested by a 29 per cent poll rating today. More than 100 Labour MPs could easily lose their seats in a contest that pitted the incompetent and malign Corbyn and his festering mob against Theresa May and her Cabinet. With the Tory press breathing down Corbyn’s neck, it would be no contest.
Corbyn and his militant followers are, of course, not much interested in Parliament. They have long known that they stand no chance of gaining power by parliamentary means. They are dreaming of the revolution, believing that through same strange alchemy the people can be persuaded to take to the streets and sweep away the established order. Their dream – a nightmare to the great majority of the country – is not going to happen but their fantasies may do terminal damage to Labour.
A second Corbyn leadership win will probably provoke the long threatened split in the Parliamentary Labour Party with the 170 plus MPs who have lost faith in Corbyn breaking away to form a new official Opposition under the banner of a new party – Real Labour for want of a better name. This will still have to move fast to organise itself in time for the next election – almost certainly not before 2020 because of the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act.
Here, of course, lies Ukip’s opportunity. If Labour splits, voters in its Midlands and Northern heartlands will be faced by a choice of two Labour parties – a “moderate” one and a hard left version led by Corbyn or one of his acolytes. With Ukip lying second in 44 Labour seats, mostly in the North West, the North East and Yorkshire and The Humber, the party’s opportunity is obvious. These are the very places where the Brexit vote was highest, again underlining the gulf that has opened up between Labour’s core vote and its increasingly metropolitan leadership (true both of Corbyn’s hard left Islington school of politics or the PC identity politics championed by many supposedly moderate Labour MPs).
Even if by some miracle Labour does not split and manages to prise Corbyn out of his “stop the war” bunker and replace him with a more mainstream and reassuring figure, the party still faces a hiding at the next election.
Can Ukip rise to the challenge? Judging from this excellent report in Saturday’s Times, northern voters are crying out for the implementation of Ukip’s policy of an end to mass migration. They are furious that what few jobs there are to be had in small, former mining towns are going to Eastern European migrants recruited directly by big local employers.
Well-paid, secure jobs, housing, healthcare, schools, law and order and cultural stability. It is easy to list what so many of those who voted for Brexit want. In the nine parliamentary seats covered by Doncaster, Barnsley and Rotherham, 68 per cent voted Leave on a 70 per cent turn-out – 12 points higher than the 2015 election. All these seats are currently held by Labour.
By the 2020 election, perhaps Mrs May and her team of Brexiteer ministers will have delivered genuine national control of immigration – though it will take years for the results to be felt on the ground. Before then Ukip has the chance to cut the ground from under Labour if can find the ideas, the energy, the professionalism and the organisation. The great realignment of British politics has never seemed nearer.
(Image: Henry Hemming)