I’m not as convinced as Corbynites that New Labour is what is lurking in the Party’s shadow, or even that it still exists with much strength. It certainly isn’t accurate to say Labour is full of Blairites and even what remains of the Blair years does not advocate Thatcheresque views with anywhere near the same force and conviction. Some of this is down to the influence of Corbyn’s and McDonnell’s economic policies and a lot is down to the fact that the flaws in political economic thought are now so abundant that they are speaking for themselves.
The Labour Party’s recent record on many issues, first as a government and now as Opposition, should make many of its MPs feel ashamed, yet I’d prefer for those MPs to be asked if they have now changed heart, mind and direction, rather than just lazily assuming they haven’t, when the whole country is beginning to call out the consequences of Conservative recklessness. Merely projecting history and ignoring any capacity for renewed insight does little to enlighten the present and is not an inevitable blueprint for the future. The Party is full of fresh blood and progressed thought. One might well say that Corbyn has made a difference but, so, too, has mainstream comprehension, even if it took Brexit’s fallout for the News to begin voicing it. It is a timely marriage of opportunity. Sadly, I can’t see how Corbyn is strategically poised to effectively capitalise on this opportunity, short of continually firming up his existing support and saying ‘’told you so’ in front of a camera, now and then.
Corbyn’s most ardent supporters behave as though he were the only light and way. They have elevated a messenger above the message and, by persisting in doing so, risk making sure the message never manifests as any government’s policies. They appear not to have noticed the change in perception and acceptance of sensible economic philosophy across their party and they do not seem to take into account how the Media and Public are finally acknowledging the nonsense that passed for Conservative competence, these past six years. Corbyn’s social justice policies risk coming to nothing if he can’t manage his party or be taken seriously and then fails to beat the buccaneering Conservative and UK Independence Parties. When you are the Opposition, you are a de facto party of protest but you have to be united, competent, informed and well-organised. That is not just so you can hold the government to account and influence change. It is also one of the ways you persuade the electorate to give you a go, next time. The electorate needs an available and viable alternative and Labour is failing, dismally, to be it.
The country doesn’t need an evasive and elusive leader who resents even perfectly valid scrutiny by the Media, cannot organise with any semblance of professionalism and cannot manage the small but immensely strong tail that wags him. Of course I understand that if the Party machinery had assisted him from the very beginning, he may have come to be seen as a sustainably fresh breath of air. Instead, they wrung their hands and left him to invest his reputation in a superfluous ‘movement’ and a God-awful staff of naivety and ulterior motives. He has been helped, mostly, to make schoolboy error after error. And the Parliamentary Party still wrings its hands. They are responsible for a good deal of the present mess, to be sure and they should have seen it coming: that to resent him and petulantly leave him floundering would compound matters and bite them all on the arse. But there is no time machine. And time, however inconvenient, is of the essence.
I don’t know how this is reconciled: whether the Party prevails or splits or dies. I’m not sure if there is a credible and workable compromise to be had that can serve the members and work for the wider electorate; how much either side really believes it can find one – or wants to. I’m not in either of their bubbles. The Party seems to have the most impractical and ill-thought-out constitution imaginable and the PLP is at an understandable loss as to the safest, best course of action, considering the consequential risks. All I have to go on, to make a judgement, are the Media and my own experience as a citizen witness and wannabe Labour voter. The whole thing reminds me of the Judgement of Solomon: I want the baby to be saved but, then, I think the baby is Labour, not Corbyn and the Corbynites seem to think their first “duty of care” is to Jeremy. It is a terrible thing to see him being chewed up and spat out by all sides; yes, even by his own. The paranoia and myopic insistence begins to feel like a lead weight on the very progress I want to see and had thought they most desired. It’s awful.
I think it’s too late to try to give Corbyn the kind of makeover required to appeal to a whole electorate but it is vital that his general narrative and intentions do not die with his demise – be it now or later. I suppose he could stay on as part of the shadow cabinet, either in an advisory role that honours his mandate, or as a minister of something, if either side would wear it. Or, if he is so confident in the breadth and depth of his support, he could go off and lead Momentum as a new party. It seems to have made a pretty good start, already. [Why the doubling up/outsourcing of a role that Labour should be able to do, for itself, through its constituency offices, anyway?] If Corbyn is determined to stay, though, maybe the first best thing he should do is to sack the carrion and clueless among his personal staff and ask the PLP to help him. If, really, he wants to go, of his own accord, he could seek to negotiate a way out, based on assurances from the PLP that he could give to his grassroots: that Labour seriously understands, wishes and sincerely intends to take forward the most sensible of his policies and visions and that he has done the job he set out to do. Gods, it’s depressing.