Labour’s suicidal civil war will escalate, not end after Corbyn’s victory

Labour’s suicidal civil war will escalate, not end after Corbyn’s victory

This week, the result of the Labour leadership contest will be announced. The market rates Jeremy Corbyn overwhelming 98% favourite to win at 1.02 but, as announced on Twitter last week, I’m taking no chances and took my 22 unit profit when the odds went to 1.04. Why take the risk when there are party managers trying anything in their power to stop him?

Assuming they don’t succeed, the chances of a fresh start are negligible, to say the least. Judging by the relentless vitriol from both sides – but particularly his Westminster opponents, who have access to the mainstream media – this can only end in a split, or at least the sort of electoral disaster that renders the party irrelevant.

To repeat, I do not regard Jeremy Corbyn as being a potential Prime Minister. Far from it. With Scotland gone for the foreseeable future at least, Labour need to win in parts of England where their brand is toxic, their organisation non-existent and their philosophy despised. Whoever is leader, the only game in town is a long one.

Yet rather than get on with the long haul or attacking the Conservative government (surely page one of any comeback manual), what I call ‘Mainstream Labour’ persist with petty, trivial attacks on their leader.

Corbyn is held to a standard that was never applied to his predecessors, or indeed to any of the possible alternatives for leader.

He’s attacked for being unelectable. But what evidence is there that any of last year’s three rivals were, let alone the hapless Owen Smith? In my view the latter would win no more votes but lose a hundred thousands members.

He’s attacked over the most trivial of issues – his answer to a question about his favourite biscuit or choice of holiday reading material. Rather than giving a genuine answer that reflects his personality – a political anorak that openly doesn’t engage popular culture – they imply he should be more populist.

The implication is that Corbyn should ape Ed Miliband’s widely ridiculed attempt to order a pasty from Greggs. Or Gordon Brown endorsing the Arctic Monkeys. Or tour the country in a pink bus to show he’s on the side of women (a farce that blame-shifting Labour MPs soon forgot when they chose to make Miliband the scapegoat for last May’s defeat).

People still cringe about these PR tragedies yet presumably these nerdy, intellectual Labour leaders fell into the trap after receiving advice from the same ‘professional’ advisers that snipe at Corbyn every day on Twitter? And if Corbyn did go down that route, they would be the first to condemn the opportunism. He’s damned either way.

The Conservatives would never self-destruct like this. David Cameron was a master of publicity stunts that went wrong. Claiming on different occasions to support different football teams is the ultimate PR sin, (and occured in the middle of an election campaign), yet his colleagues and friendly media simply ignored it.

Cameron even had to delay a set-piece conference speech (keeping everyone waiting for an hour) because various critics had pointed out that his pre-released blurb about household debt was economically illiterate. It was barely mentioned again – not even by these same Labour voices that now ruin their own leader over answering a biscuit question wrongly!

On policy, he’s attacked for being too left-wing but in reality, where are the dramatic differences? On domestic issues, they barely exist. He got into some trouble for talking about decriminalising prostitution. Besides that not being in the top hundred important electoral issues, I’m not sure that’s a vote loser.

Where they do disagree, of course, is over foreign policy and nuclear weapons. On the latter, Mainstream Labour are correct to say the English public are not about to vote for a leader that gives up Trident.

But on the former, again Corbyn’s enemies are in denial about the party’s recent history. The Labour rot begun to set in after Tony Blair sent troops into Iraq. Critics like Corbyn were condemned as ‘appeasers’. The Chilcot Report vindicated them, and shamed Blair.

Last week, the Tory-led Foreign Affairs Select Committee condemned Cameron’s rush to war in Libya, enthusiastically backed by most Labour MPs. Again Corbyn rebelled, as with pretty much every vote for war throughout his career.

This is why the two sides hate one another and there is no truce in sight. Labour members are deeply sceptical and sometimes wholly against military action. Most Labour MPs vociferously support it and think Britain should be taking a lead in the Middle East. A circle that cannot be squared and fundamental political question that will inevitably arise again.

Whoever wins the leadership contest, Labour need to get a grip, unite and move forward. It won’t happen. A split or the deselection of MPs is the only realistic answer. We could be looking at a collapse on the scale seen in Scotland.

If you’ve got any spare cash that you don’t mind tying up for a while – potentially four years but it isn’t unimaginable that the next election is sooner – stick it all on the Conservatives to win the most seats at 1.33 with paddypower.com. A money printing job if ever there was one.


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