Corbyn’s suicide mission will kill off the Labour left
The irony is that it may only be the centre-right that survives. Jeremy Corbyn is going to be the next Labour leader. Despite all the talk of late surges and delayed ballots, his lead amongst the £3 “supporters”, (many of whom are clearly not Labour supporters at all), is too large to be overhauled.
The left stand on the cusp of their greatest triumph. And their final triumph.
When Corbyn wins it’s not clear what the immediate effect of his victory will be. Labour could descend into civil war. It could retreat into a period of mute introspection. It could even benefit from a surge of youthful, radical enthusiasm.
But we know how it ends. Everyone knows how it ends. The Corbyn experiment will fail. He will be overthrown by his party. Or he will be overthrown by the voters. And at that point the Labour left are dead.
Jeremy Corbyn has made one fatal mistake. He has been too successful. He was supposed to make a stand. Plant a flag in the ground. Facilitate the “debate” craved by his misguided backbench sponsors.
But he wasn’t supposed to win. The one thing the hard left knows is that their theories can survive everything except exposure to the wider electorate. And now, as a result of appalling good-fortune and disastrously over effective campaigning, that is precisely what’s about to happen. The great socialist blueprint is about to be placed before the British people.
The last time this happened it nearly put the left out of business for good. Labour’s 1983 general manifesto is not described as the “longest suicide note in history” for nothing. It took the Labour party 14 years to recover from it. Compared with the 32 years it’s taken for the left to haul itself back from the brink of extinction.
But back in the 80s, the left were handed an important, if slender, lifeline. The fracture on the right, and the SDP split that followed it, allowed the Left to pass the buck. As ever, they did so laboriously and inefficiently. But eventually it allowed them to construct an alternative narrative built around an alternate history.
It was the right, not the left, that consigned Labour to the political wilderness. If it hadn’t been for the betrayal of Roy Jenkins and David Owen and Shirley Williams, Britain would have embraced Labour’s program of renationalising the top 100 companies, European Union withdrawal and unilateralism.
But this time the left will have no lifeline. The right will not split away. There will be no defections. There will not even be much overt resistance. Jeremy Corbyn and the left will be given ample rope to hang themselves.
And hang themselves they will. One of the fascinating things over the past few months is the way the left have managed to so rapidly decouple themselves from Ed Miliband. All the articles and speeches and interviews lauding Labour’s leader for his bravery in confronting Britain’s evil vested interests, and his wisdom in moving Labour incrementally to the left, have vanished. Replaced with lots of knowing head nodding about how his luke-warm Blairism was always destined to fail.
The left will not be able to decouple themselves from Jeremy Corbyn. He is a favourite son, with pure red blood in his veins. People’s Quantitative Easing. A People’s Railway. The Village People. OK, maybe not them. But every other people’s moniker has been embraced or appropriated by the bearded messiah.
That won’t stop the left attempting to cut him loose when they see him going over the cliff, of course. “Jeremy was too nice”. “Jeremy was too old”. But by then it will be too late.
Corbyn’s failure will end the debate about whether it’s possible for Labour to win from the left. ’83, ’15 and ’20 (if he even gets that far), will be set against ’97, ’01 and ’05. A history lesson that even the left will not be able to re-write.
Labour’s moderates will have learnt their lesson too. They will understand that the hard left weren’t dead, but only sleeping. And they won’t mistake their snores for a death rattle again. They will have had time to address their failures of organisation, refine their messages, and identify a new standard bearer. When Corbyn falters, they will be ready.
Of course, it may not matter. The Corbyn experiment may be an experiment too far for the voters. Having asked them to vote for Gordon Brown on 2010 and Ed Miliband in 2015, Labour’s request they place Jeremy Corbyn in Downing Street with his finger on the nuclear button may represent a request too far.
But if Labour does somehow survive, then it will be the party’s pragmatists and modernisers who emerge shaken and bleeding from the rubble. No one who signed on for Jeremy Corbyn’s 2015 suicide mission will survive. They can’t. His message is so uncompromising, his brand so proudly and defiantly sports the imprint of the hard-left. This time there can be no escape.
In a week Jeremy Corbyn will deliver the Left their greatest victory. And their last victory.