Here we are, again, having elected Jeremy Corbyn as the Leader of the Labour Party, solidifying a terrible chapter in Labour’s history with the cement of a fresh mandate for destruction. This time we know that appeals to Corbyn supporters about how poisonous, unelectable and just plain wrong the Party will become are pointless. It happened. They didn’t care. And in Labour now, they are many and we are few. No, we are now living in a changed Labour order, the kaleidoscope was truly in flux and by God did they reorder our world. The Labour Party has been captured by the Hard Left, top, middle and bottom, and there’s little dignity or integrity in denying this anymore. It’s done. The question is, what do we do now? Here are some thoughts. Mostly they require time, patience and honesty.
Jeremy Corbyn must fight an election as the Leader of the Labour Party: they must be allowed to fail on their own.
I am quite devastated writing this, but I feel now that this is an essential part of Labour’s renewal. Had Owen Smith won today, he would have lost a general election and Labour would have gained nothing. The Hard Left would have said, correctly, that their politics had not been given a chance to go before the electorate, and protestations about their collective appeal were nothing but grudging conjecture. In this era of conspiracy theories, rational, highly evidenced, common sense arguments are not enough. The Corbyn movement must see the proof that they will fail, which only the electorate can provide. Patience and a lot of deep breaths are required, it will be painful, but it is now necessary.
The PLP must not rejoin the Shadow Cabinet: don’t tear him down, but don’t prop him up
Leaving Jeremy alone does not – and in fact must not – mean the PLP toes his political line, stops advocating progressive politics, or rejoins the Shadow Cabinet. His politics are unpalatable. His ‘pacifism’ alone has fed into an historic abdication of responsibility in Syria, millions displaced, hundreds of thousands dead, and a brutal President left in place to murder his people on a daily basis. No, for the PLP to fall into line would demean themselves, and us. The Hard Left now have to be allowed to fall on their own. Don’t prop him up, don’t tear him down, just let him get on with it and they will eventually fall apart, the electorate will see to that.
That does not mean doing nothing. The PLP must revitalise Labour’s progressive policy agenda, independent of Jeremy Corbyn
Instead they must, quietly, patiently, and diligently create a parallel structure of policy development, outside the formal structures of the Labour Party. Use the NPF model, adapted for 2016, but without the dominance of the hard left in Labour and the trade unions. They should divide the key issues between them and each take responsibility for leading the intellectual and political development in these areas, bringing together progressive forces from both inside and outside the Labour Party. We need to be working quietly, patiently, and diligently, up and down the country, getting key people in each geographical area, and specialists in these subjects, and real people, with real lives with non-dogmatic politics. We need to develop the new Labour policies for this new era.
We can do this, but it will take time.
We have the talent in the PLP, we have the talent in the progressive thinkers and do-ers in the country, we have the decency and common sense of our nation’s people. We need the discipline to start bringing it all together. Use the profiles of the vast moderate majority in the PLP to make the case for progressive politics in the TV studios, on radio, in print. Get the lines back, get the discipline, police the boundaries of our own discussions. When someone stands up and says, “Tony Blair is a war criminal” or “1997-2010 were Labour’s worst ever years” politely say, “can I stop you there. You’re in the wrong room, you’re looking for the Momentum people down the corridor.” We will get a lot further, a lot faster if we don’t have to worry about constantly arguing with/placating the hardliners. Stand up to them, always.
Members – should I stay or should I go? Do what you feel is right.
To be honest, I don’t think people should agonise over it. If you feel you just can’t bear to be part of Corbyn Labour that is understandable. I don’t feel like that, but only because I believe this is not Labour, not now, not ever, and that works for me. But if that doesn’t work for you, that’s okay too. If the PLP can set about establishing an alternative political structure, you would not need to be a Labour member to feed in, and your membership can wait until Labour returns to something you can be proud of once again. Leaving the Labour Party does not mean leaving politics, stopping having ideas, stopping being part of a network of progressive minded moderate left-wing centrists. We cannot win on the numbers in Labour now, let’s just face that fact. The time is not ours’. I’m sorry to my moderate friends who are desperate to keep good people in the Party, but right now people have to have the space to do what they think is right for them. Now is a time for deep breaths, patience and a dose of unconventional thinking.
We can all see now that Labour as a credible party of government will either die at the hands of the Hard Left, or it won’t be quite dead when they leave. Either way, and this may take years, the aim for moderate Labour is to be ready with a well-developed political programme to step in – either to bring the Labour Party back to life or to form a new Party, when the time comes. Deep breaths, patience, and solidarity. One day this will all be over, a new dawn will come again, let’s make sure we’re ready.