I was wrong. Two months ago, both Labour and Conservative parties were holding leadership elections and I suggested that Labour should work to the Conservatives’ electoral timetable, or they would be seen as a divided and unelectable. I had not counted on the efficient manner in which the Conservatives replace their leaders.
Labour is still fighting. Jeremy Corbyn is set to win with an even larger mandate from the membership.
The party has had two court cases, the first about the eligibility of the incumbent to stand in a leadership contest without nominations. This was due to the awful way that the party rules were drafted. It appears it was assumed that the leader would have to garner the nominations of Labour MPs, but this was left ambiguous in the rules as no explicit mention was actually made of a leader in the rules about a leadership challenge. You could not make it up.
The second was about the eligibility of new party members to vote. It transpired that some people had joined recently just to back the incumbent.
The Corbyn faction won the right of the incumbent to appear on the ballot without nominations. The anti-Corbyn faction, a grouping that has no name apart from the abusive ones applied by their opponents, won the right to restrict the vote to members who joined before the second week of February.
People in the Labour Party think that this civil war will be ignored at future elections. Unfortunately, the only people who think these things have all joined the Labour Party to vote for Corbyn.
There is anecdotal evidence of lifelong Labour voters refusing to back a Labour candidate in local elections because of who is the party’s leader. This may make more sense than is first apparent.
Labour tends towards a Leninist democratic centralism, where the voting behaviour of elected representatives is not based on their own beliefs, but the determined view of the local party. The incumbent is not a representative of the electorate, but is instead a delegate of the local party apparatus. Thus policy is implemented based not on popular opinion or local concerns, but instead on the votes of activists. Since these activists nowadays tend to follow the policies of the Dear Leader, this means voting Labour in any election means voting for Corbynism.
Corbyn’s success may be explained by the ridiculous concept of the party’s ‘broad church’, where one wing is communist, while the other supports the market. This has meant that the party has been unable to properly police its members, or certainly the extremists, and is losing the battle against entryists. The ‘compliance unit’ that monitors membership activity did not even merit a mention in Shami Chakrabarti’s hopelessly-flawed report into anti-Semitism. This indicates the party’s internal organisation is failing.
There are four plausible reasons why. The first is that the party is so incompetent that it did not realise its members used social media. The second is that the organisation is so factionalised as to result in paralysis; nothing ever gets done properly. The third is that the organisation was overwhelmed by the task of policing members, especially after a massive influx. The fourth is a combination of all three. Whatever the explanation, this does call into question Labour’s viability as an alternative party of government.
It is a known practice of the hard left to pack meetings to drive decisions. They now seem to be packing the party and using intimidation and sharp procedural tactics to get their way.
So what next? Corbyn will win, but he must realise that barring an economic or political meltdown, he will never be Prime Minister. The next general election will be a landslide Conservative victory, enhanced by long-overdue constituency boundary reform. The best Corbyn can hope for is a hard-left rump party using the disruptive tactics forged in Labour’s committee rooms and town halls to disrupt Parliament and to debase and degrade democratic politics.
This also means that Labour’s moderate MPs now have nothing to lose. Their loyalty is being exploited by a party that seeks their downfall. It is now clear that nothing will dislodge Corbyn short of infirmity and it is absurd to bet a political career on the health of a leader, outside of North Korea.
It is to be hoped that the dissident Labour MPs have not been wasting the summer recess and have a master plan to give the British people a credible opposition party and potential government. If they have not, then they are a waste of taxpayers’ money. They are not just in Parliament to articulate constituents’ concerns, but also to challenge incumbents. It would be reasonable for us to ask for some of their salary back. After all, they do seem to be on strike.