HAVING led Labour to two successive defeats, tradition indicates it should be time for Jeremy Corbyn to quit. In true Corbyn style, he has fudged it, only saying he will not stand in the next General Election, which at the time of writing will be in 2024. So Corbyn might be with us for some time.
It should be quite clear by now that Corbyn is no ordinary Labour leader. Had he been so, he would have quit years ago when he lost the support of his MPs. But Corbyn cleaves to the tradition of his spiritual homes of the gladly-missed USSR and its misbegotten Warsaw Pact slave states, where party leaders never quit due to adverse events, but only because of the successful intrigue of colleagues; he (and it was always a he) would otherwise leave office only by leaving life itself, except in North Korea where Kim Il-sung, despite being dead, remains nominally in charge to this day. On this basis, losing two General Elections in the space of 30 months is not a matter for immediate resignation, especially for a man with an overabundant and highly public affinity for dictatorships. Instead he is looking to retire at some unspecified time as gracefully as he can after leading his party to disaster.
It is said that this is Labour’s worst defeat since 1935. This is a mistake. 1935 marked a point of recovery by Labour from the 1931 drubbing they received when they were reduced to 52 seats. 1935 was an improvement, Labour was going up in the polls and would be rewarded by a landslide in 1945, something for which the Bohemian Corporal was party responsible. In 2019, the submarine is in the middle of a crash-dive.
While his party has been quite reduced, despite everything people know about Corbyn and his comrades, millions voted for his extremist policies. They cannot have all been tribal Labour supporters or Conservative-haters who flock to the party most likely to keep a Conservative out of power. They were not all anti-Semites, although every single anti-Semite in Britain capable of scrawling a cross or more likely a swastika or interchangeably a Palestinian flag, would have voted Labour. So Corbyn might be able to take comfort that there are millions of voters who share his vision of a neo-Marxist Britain. This is similar to the argument used by Tony Benn in 1983 when he defended Labour’s catastrophic defeat by highlighting the support of millions for a Labour manifesto dubbed ‘the longest suicide note in history’, which was similarly extreme but equally rejected by a majority of British voters. It appears that while there are some awful things in life you can polish, Marxism is still not one of them.
Another reason why Corbyn saw no reason to quit at once is that voters will eventually opt for a non-Conservative party as the government. So Corbyn’s successor (or successor-but-one or more) has only to wait until the voting public gets tired of the Conservatives. The likelihood of this increases the longer Conservatives remain in power. A government that will have spent 14 years in office by the time of the next General Election might be running out of energy. Incumbents enjoying all the trappings of office do not necessarily recognise when they need to step down to refresh governance. When a government spends a long time in office, a log-jam of potential successors in the same party builds up and this can cause fractiousness amongst the impatiently ambitious. And if there is one thing we know about British MPs, it is that they are all ambitious.
While the UK is on course formally to leave the EU in January, the transition will still take years and there will inevitably be complications, not the least as the UK transforms from the EU’s economic partner into its trading rival. If the EU was not the UK’s friend while we were members, this is but a shadow of their attitude now we will be finally leaving. Labour will be waiting for every slip and trip. Marxism thrives on opportunism as it takes advantage of the weakness of national institutions. Our institutions have been weakened by years of wrangling and might be further weakened in the years ahead, especially if the Remain fifth column continue their acts of political sabotage to convince voters that the UK should rejoin the EU. At present the political schism seems to be of Lutheran intensity.
There is an issue of whether a post-Corbyn Labour party would continue down the ideological pathway laid down by Corbyn and his politburo. Any successor, who would have to be a woman, will have to assert her independence somehow lest she be seen as a puppet of Corbyn’s team, and the only way she could do that is by excluding people coming from the hard Left organisations with whom Corbyn has spent his career associating. Logically the only way to preserve continuity Corbynism is to keep Corbyn in the top job for as long as possible to manage the transition properly and avoid accusations of a puppet successor.
So for all these reasons, Corbyn is following form by not stepping down immediately despite Labour’s collapse in the face of the Boris Bulldozer. While others may see humiliation, he or his team might see validation in the level of support Labour managed to preserve despite their openly extreme ideological position. After all the laughter and finger-pointing, politics will resume. Corbyn will just wipe the egg off his face and carry on for some time.