Wednesday, 17 January 2018

As One Door Closes

The dominance of the Corbynites on the Labour party's National Executive Committee (NEC), achieved this week, and the already-begun expected (at least by some of us) purge of what are termed 'moderates', are leading to the party's ultimate demise.

What I have read was an 11% vote for Jon Lansman (head of the Corbyn-supporting Momentum organisation) and two other 'Corbynistas' has resulted in their faction now running the NEC – and indeed purging of anyone who is not of their mind has already started from at least one key position, just a day later.

None of this comes as any surprise, as it has been easy to see where the party has been heading for some time. I might hold the record for being the first to predict all of this, which I have been doing ever since Edward] Miliband became the Labour leader almost two-thirds of a decade ago. Back then, I initially predicted that within half a decade or so, the party would reach a point from which it could never return, and it would start to become more obvious to all that it was on its way to extinction within a few years after that.

To the political geeks who would listen, I also disclosed that the psychology and structural make-up of the party meant that this was inevitable, and the point of no return had effectively been reached at that time. I don't think they believed me…






Actually, by last March, even The Guardian had learned of a plot by Momentum and the UNITE union to take over control of Labour.


The present situation has been made comparatively easy by what appears to have been almost complete inaction on the part of the so-called 'moderates' within the party, including and most especially its elected members in the House of Commons – its MPs. It is now being suggested by concerned people that they leave the Labour party and stand as Independents at the next election. They are just about certain to be de-selected as candidates anyway – something that has this week been threatened, and that we really knew would happen if we were honest with ourselves.

This, though, would fragment them into non-entities without a party machine to campaign for them, so they'd be unlikely to win the seats and there'd be no full-on manifesto to give them even an election campaign firm foundation. They could form a new party or similar but less formalised entity with common goals and its own manifesto, but that could be difficult to achieve and it'd need to establish its credentials over a period of years.

I have a better idea. When we had a not dissimilar situation in the country around thirty years ago, when Militant were trying to dominate Labour, a 'gang of four' broke away from the party and set up the centrist Social Democrat Party (SDP) which many disaffected Labour members joined and supported for many years. Some went with it in the subsequent merger with the Liberal Party when the Liberal Democrats were formed, a (much) smaller number stayed with an ongoing SDP.

Interestingly, a similar phenomenon to that divide occurred with the old Tory Party in the 19th century when it officially ceased to exist upon the formation of the Conservative Party – but some of the party faithful kept it going for decades.

Similarly, the SDP is still around, and seems to have been quietly waiting in the wings for a suitable time for its re-emergence. It is strongly pro-Brexit, so would certainly seem to be an ideal new home for Leave-favouring displaced Labour MPs, councillors and ordinary members. Remainers might not be so keen, depending on how their feelings weigh up between Brexit and having a Commons presence.

I suspect that there are enough Labour moderates to make such a move to this new home work – just as it did to a considerable degree last time round. The advantage this time is that there would be fewer seats to contest, rather that the SDP's full slate approach back in the 'eighties. At that time they were winning almost as many votes as Labour, but getting only a small fraction of their number of seats as the SDP vote was too thinly spread – something that afflicts the successor Lib Dems to this day.

For the next General Election, the campaigning would be limited to (probably) around 250 seats, which should be sufficient to tip the balance even the first time (presumably May 2022) and get at least some of the SDP candidates elected. It might not be very many on that occasion, but it would be a much greater success story than (say) UKIP and the Greens have ever had, and perhaps better than the Lib Dems' wins on that day.

I think it could work!