It won’t be good for democracy, or for those already struggling after years of ideological austerity, but a Labour Party split seems more and more inevitable as the days roll on. It is hard to predict any other outcome from the civil war currently raging within the party – those within the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) who are hell-bent on removing Jeremy Corbyn will likely see to the destruction of the party whether they intend it or not.
In an interview with Huffington Post, Owen Smith admitted that Labour is heading for a “historic split” if Jeremy Corbyn wins the leadership election. But what are the actual chances of a Labour Party split? With the damage that has already been done during the attempted coup and leadership contest, and with no clear end in sight in regards to the fallout, it seems that it might be more a matter of when rather than if.
Progress, the ginger group broadly viewed as supportive of the New Labour leadership of Tony Blair, has for a while effectively been a party within a party: and they want control of the party back from the membership who seized the opportunity to change the direction of the party last summer by electing Jeremy Corbyn as leader. They have never accepted Jeremy as leader, or the mandate of the membership and have been waiting patiently to launch their coup. Smear campaigns have been on the menu since day one, and they have enlisted a great deal of the PLP to their side of the argument.
those within the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) who are hell-bent on removing Jeremy Corbyn will likely see to the destruction of the party whether they intend it or not
When quizzed on Corbyn’s policy ideas blind, the public seem very receptive and like his ideas – however when asked directly about the man a great deal of the public remain sceptical showing how influential the media really can be: an issue that Labour and the left are going to have to deal with in any eventuality, as the media went after Ed Miliband too as they would Owen Smith or any candidate left of the Tories.
Momentum was set up effectively as the left’s answer to Progress, to help support Jeremy and the socialist cause within the party, and to build a movement to sway the political conscience back to the left – changing the position of the so-called “Overton window”.
But it seems Progress did not believe there to be enough room for two parties within a party, and they have used every available tactic (though unproven, perhaps even some more shady goings on) to try and vilify Momentum and their supporters. New members, often young and new to politics, have been labelled as entryists, Trotskyists, Nazi stormtroopers among other things – exactly the type of politics that people are sick of, and why many young members are supporting Jeremy as they try to seize the opportunity to change the tide. The alienation of new, young members has seemed about as counter-productive as it sounds. At the time that the Tories were the weakest, in the wake of the EU referendum result, the majority of the PLP were busy plotting against Corbyn rather than the Tories.
The coup came, and failed. Corbyn would not stand down – and the right of the party failed in their attempts to keep him off the ballot automatically. Owen Smith was nominated the challenger to dethrone Corbyn in a political version of Game of Thrones. But the membership don’t seem to be taking the psuedo-socialist bait, there is something off about Smith and even amongst the purging of Corbyn supporters it still seems likely Jeremy will win my a fair margin. The Progress camp realising this have shut up shop and left Owen Smith out on a limb, he is the lamb to be sacrificed before the second wave attack happens.
It seems some in the Labour party hierarchy would rather see Labour destroyed and the Tories in power for a generation than to see Jeremy Corbyn leading the country
The outlook looks very bleak for Labour. Might we see a situation where both Progress and Momentum become separate parties? It seems likely – but they will certainly both wrestle for control of the iconic Labour brand? That’s the messy part, and the one that could be the death knell for the party.
In an ideal world both the Conservatives and Labour would split to end the bitterness of their warring factions, and proportional representation would be embraced – this would mark a new dawn for an electoral system which is not fit for purpose, and greatly enhance democratic representation in the country. Meanwhile, in the real world the Tories hold themselves together, and introduce boundary changes to further rig the electoral system in their favour, whereas it looks certain that Labour will at some point split after tearing themselves apart.
One thing that is for certain is that Labour are caught in a trap of their own making, this could have all been avoided. With a great number of the PLP shouting at every possibility that “Jeremy is unelectable” a great number of the public who do not follow politics as closely as those of us who write about it are just hearing “Labour are unelectable” – this is further fed by the media bias against Corbyn and his allies. But the idea of telling people how they should vote under the assumption that they know best is the reason why the membership voted Jeremy into office the first time around, not much has changed. The plotters are alienating both new and younger members, older traditional left-leaning members, and the voting public alike.
The rebellious members of the PLP are correct, Labour does potentially stare down the barrel of oblivion – they have stoked the flames which make it a real possibility. And yet they will not stand down and accept the decision of the membership, after all they know best: and their personal career ambitions are at stake. They say they want to win elections, but their chances of winning of a watered down Tory, un-inspiring neo-liberal platform are perhaps less than Jeremy’s.
With a great number of the PLP shouting at every possibility that “Jeremy is unelectable” a great number of the public who do not follow politics as closely as those of us who write about it are just hearing “Labour are unelectable”
I’m not pretending that Corbyn’s leadership has been plain sailing and without fault, but advancements were being made: Labour have won every by-election and mayoral election under the Corbyn premiership – but all focus has now turned inwards, whilst the Tories stand practically unopposed. It seems some in the Labour party hierarchy would rather see the Labour Party destroyed and the Tories in power for a generation than to see Jeremy Corbyn leading the country. So chances are that if Jeremy is re-elected leader, which seems highly probable, the rebellious Progress movement will not stop their mutinous behaviour and get behind him, but will again plan and act even if it means tearing the party down around them.
The Progress faction might decide to break away, but you can bet your bottom dollar it won’t be without dragging the party through the courts to try and take the Labour brand with them. This could lead to the darkest days the Labour Party has ever faced.