Lucky Tories. A post-Brexit party crisis with seething animosities, a leader cut off in his prime, and opprobrium from the BBC and social media. Yet David Cameron could still stand in the House of Commons and make jokes about the Opposition. And worse for the remnants of the Labour leadership, their own side was laughing along. Perhaps this was gallows humour, in the face of impending doom. The problem for anyone trying to put all the pieces of the fallen party together again, is the existential divide between followers. There are really three Labours, and despite some overlap, none are very comfortable with each other.
The first Labour (not in any particular order) is the uncompromising hard left. Jeremy Corbyn, whose politics have survived intact from the 1970s, leads the party thanks to quarter of a million idealists who saw him as their Marxist Messiah. His electors are typified by chip-on-the-shoulder middle-class students and pseudo-intellectuals, whose cause celebre is Palestine. They purport to speak for the poor, although they abhor the patriotism of the white working class, and oppose any controls on immigration despite its damaging impact on social cohesion, wages and housing. Obviously they hate the Tory scum, but vitriol is reserved for the ‘Blairite vermin’. Momentum agitators have been intimidating the moderates on front and back benches, threatening deselection in their constituencies. Charming fellows.
The second Labour is the dominant force in parliament. This is the party of the middle-class establishment (although they would not see themselves as such, deluding themselves that a past visit to Glastonbury to see Pulp and Lily Allen marks them as rebels). Many of these MPs arose from all-woman shortlists, and there is a sense of hectoring headmistress in how they preach their political correctness. Instead of the radical action urged by the Corbynites, parliamentary Labour pursues peace and harmony. After ceding all powers to the EU, they would have eventually turned the House of Commons into a virtue-signalling chamber, with rounds of applause and ‘we are all…’ placards. Identity politics is their agenda, and their targets of hate is middle England: the Daily Mail, and any anchors of social conservatism. Most contemptuous are their attitudes to the lower middle-class, whose intellect and attitudes they ridicule (think Abigail’s Party), while the old are just embarrassing.
The third Labour is the old working class of the industrial heartlands of south Wales, the Midlands, North of England, the central belt of Scotland, and the displaced dockers of London and other ports. Today this includes the black urban poor, whose status is little more than an underclass. Once represented by trade unions as well as Labour MPs, the lower echelons have been abandoned by middle-class politicians who boast of their progressive multiculturalism; many suspect that the party is simply aligning itself with the growing Muslim populace for electoral advantage, while the old working class is dying out. Citizens of the former mining, steelworking and shipbuilding towns cannot understand what happened to the socialism that once gave their communities collective strength. Who do they hate? Snobs who sneer at their simple ways, and they can see through the veneer.
Which Labour shall prevail? I doubt that Tom Watson, Yvette Cooper or David Miliband could bridge the gaps between the poor, the principled fundamentalists, and the professional political class. At least Corbyn is honest in telling voters that he wants open borders; parliamentary Labour claims to listen to concerns about immigration, only to continue the deceit.
At this juncture, the Lib Dems could revive their fortunes, possibly gaining a few defections from Labour. Ukip is poised to fill the vacuum in Wales and the north, where it will surely exploit Gordon Brown’s slogan of ‘British jobs for British workers’. In Scotland, it seems unlikely that Labour can reverse its rapid demise. Only in London does Labour flourish, as the demoralised working class is priced out of the equation. But elsewhere, as we saw with Brexit, the old workers are biting back. Sadly for British society, we are witnesses to Labour’s love lost.
(Image: Ben Slater)