Saturday, August 22, 2015

Why Labour will probably split unless Corbyn is deposed

There's an article at Open Democracy from the Scottish Green activist Gabriel Neil, outlining his reasons for agreeing with the conventional wisdom that there will be no SDP-style split in the event of Jeremy Corbyn becoming Labour leader. I must say I don't find them hugely convincing. Basically they boil down to the idea that, unlike in 1981, the conditions do not exist for a new centrist party to become electorally successful.

"The circumstances which allowed the SDP to become a party which rocked the political boat in the early 80s (some polling even predicted they would win the 1983 election) do not exist for the Labour right any more...They do not have two extremes to oppose themselves to – they are part of a cosy consensus with Tory ideology which has led millions to stop voting altogether...The Labour right simply do not look like an exciting electoral prospect on their own, and I suspect they themselves know it."

The fact that much of the Labour parliamentary party is ideologically closer to David Cameron than to Jeremy Corbyn is precisely the reason why the situation that is seemingly about to arise will not be sustainable. These people are not going to be able to stomach sitting on the 'wrong' benches indefinitely while, for example, Cameron defends NATO membership and Corbyn agitates for withdrawal. I'm sure the Labour right are for the most part sincere in saying that they don't plan to leave the party, but that's because they're frantically telling themselves that the Corbyn era will be a very brief blip. They may even be right about that. But if the hard left bed themselves in, and if there is no realistic prospect of replacing Corbyn with a leader who is not a Corbyn protégé, the unthinkable will swiftly become thinkable, and the right will start to look for options outside the official Labour fold.

Just before she helped set up the SDP, Shirley Williams floated the idea of a 'unilateral declaration of independence' by the Labour parliamentary party. That sort of option may be revisited - it would look like an elitist coup, but the Labour right may see it as the least worst option, because what would effectively be a new party (and the Electoral Commission would probably force it to adopt a new name) might be perceived by the public as the de facto successor to Labour. The chain of events could be something like this -

1) Mutterings after electoral setbacks.

2) Careful establishment of two narratives : First, that in a parliamentary system, no party leader can remain in office without the confidence of his or her parliamentary party. Second, that it is in the overwhelming national interest of Britain to have a credible opposition to the Tories - ie. the primary loyalty of Labour MPs is to the British people, not to the "unrepresentative minority" who elected Corbyn.

3) A PLP-only vote of no confidence in the leader.

4) The PLP votes to unilaterally declare its independence after the leader ignores no confidence vote. A new party is effectively created, leaving behind a rump 'official Labour'.


  1. Not sure you're right about this, James. Step two - the bit about a credible opposition to the Tories - won't work because the Blairistas are NOT a credible opposition to the Tories: they ARE Tories. They're not centrists, as the media deliberately and maliciously portray them, they're hard right, neo-liberal extremists, and their assigned role is to play the part of credible opposition, and occasionally even manage the country (albeit under neo-liberal principles) in order to maintain the illusion of a functioning democracy. However, this only works while they are members of a party which historically actually did present a real alternative. Without that cover, they're screwed.

    1. That simply takes us back to my original point - if they ARE TORIES, it's inconceivable that they will remain in a Corbyn-led party indefinitely. As for them not being a credible opposition, that's a claim that you, I and Gabriel Neil might agree with, but it's not something they recognise about themselves, and therefore isn't a reason for supposing a split won't happen.

  2. Even if the Labour party makes a concerted effort to remain united, disciplined and loyal to their new leader, the weekly spectacle of PMQs is going to be a bloodbath for them. Corbyn must have said and done hundreds of things over the decades that could be flung back in his face in the commons, making him look stupid, extreme and, at worst, treasonous. David Cameron is an attack dog at PMQs - he wont hold back.

    What's the betting that Corbyn either steps aside or falls ill as a result of stress?

    1. "David Cameron is an attack dog"

      Lol. That made me smile. Cameron's a wet lettuce. It's why he ran away from debating Salmond in the iref.

      He's scared shitless of debating Corbyn. Prefers the Blairites who just agree with him.

    2. Yes, Corbyn will probably get the better of Cameron at PMQs (but that won't make any difference in electoral terms).

    3. I seem to remember Alex Salmond being outdebated by a certain Alistair Darling, lol.

    4. Corbyn has a long political career behind him of course - but how much of it spent actively facing down hostile opponents in verbal sparring? He's been a backbencher since 1983 and a member of some loony left London council for years before that. When probed by the media on topics that are awkward for him, he loses his cool.

      Contrast this with David Cameron - party leader for 10 years, PM for 5, elected twice. Used to make mincemeat of Miliband on a weekly basis and, before him, Gordon Brown.

      Cameron vs Corbyn is going to be a somewhat one sided affair. It'll be painful to watch but you wont be able to look away.

    5. "Cameron vs Corbyn is going to be a somewhat one sided affair.

      Absolutely. But not in the way that you mean.

    6. "I seem to remember Alex Salmond being outdebated by a certain Alistair Darling, lol."

      I don't.

    7. First debate - Darling win by 56%-44%. Darling skewered Salmond on currency. I think Salmond talked about aliens or something.

      So you actually think that Corbyn will win in debate against Cameron?

    8. Oh I see, you're talking about that dodgy ICM poll. Mystery solved.

      And yes, I think Corbyn will defeat Cameron at PMQs on a regular basis. Why do I always need to say everything three times with you, Aldo?

    9. Lol - "that dodgy ICM poll" - but you're still completely happy to legitimise an ICM poll of approx 700 people that turned out to be a freak outlier slowing Yes 8 points ahead in the last week of the campaign.

      You pick and choose according to what's convenient.

      Regarding Corbyn, I'm not denying the man has extensive technical knowledge of many obscure and complex subjects. But he's made so many controversial statements over the years that all Cameron has to do is quote them back at him. Everything will be laid bare - his support for the IRA, Arab terrorist movements, and his support for mass immigration. It'll be like a lamb to the slaughter.

    10. Get the story straight, Aldo - if you're telling me a poll of 700 is untrustworthy, a poll of 500 must be utterly useless in your eyes. But, as it happens, the sample size was the least of the problems.

    11. ICM don't have the best record in Scotland.

      They had SNP on 43% and UKIP on 7% consistently for May's GE.

  3. Any which way you play it, there doesn't seem to be a centre left party coming out of this.
    So where does the centre left voter go?

    1. Something will emerge to fill that void. It always does. Question is, how long will it that something to make it's presence felt. It may not be as long as you might think. When Labour collapsed in Scotland, they went virtually overnight. Things happen when a will for them to happen exists, when people are motivated to make them happen. When it still believed in things, Labour didn't wait for the economy to strengthen after WWII before it set up the NHS and the welfare state; it did it when the UK was on its financial knees because it had the will to do it. If someone has the will to provide a centre left alternative, it'll happen.

    2. The tories.

      And, no, I'm not kidding. When Osborne announced a 48% rise in the minimum wage, we moved into a post right/left era in British politics. A traditional tory would have scrapped the minimum wage and allowed the market to dictate remuneration. Osborne increased it - and increased it to a level beyond what the labour party and SNP proposed.

      If you want common sense in government, the tories can provide it. I'm quite fond of the libdems also - but they're hardly in a position to influence much in the coming years.

    3. "If you want common sense in government, the tories can provide it"

      History tells us otherwise.

      Here's what happened to Scotland the last time they were in power with a majority and that was in an oil boom with hundreds of billions in free money flowing from Scotland to the treasury.

    4. Labour didn't set up the NHS. It was agreed by all parties going into that election. It doesn't belong to them and never did. Just another one of their constantly repeated lies. See also 1979.

    5. Tories pulled the plug on loss making industries, Scottish Skier. I understand a lot of people lost their jobs. That's unfortunate. But you find a new job. If necessary, you follow the work. I have very little sympathy for people who bleat on about Thatcher when they've done bugger all to improve their lot since - necessitating an influx of immigrants into this country who now seem to fill pretty much every service industry job there is. Some of these people travelled thousands of miles in search of work. Our lot can't even walk out the front door.

      But STILL they bang on about Thatcher - and now they want to break up the country.

    6. Who wants to break up Scotland? Is Lord Kilclooney at it again?

    7. I'm amazed...... Aldo has actually become a relatively constructive commentator on this site. I have to wonder though, what exactly do you do? You are forever on this site?

    8. Scotland isn't a country James. Or, at least, that's what many of your yes comrades say. "We've voted to be a mere region!", they ranted last September. I agree! But we always were a region, ever since 1707. It's just that the majority finally, formally endorsed it.

      Constructive???!!!! Oh God - I'm losing my edge :0)

      I did come on here initially as a wind up but, to be honest, you all seem like quite nice people. Still think you're wrong though!

    9. "Scotland isn't a country James."

      Ah, now I know who you are. You're Rod Liddle!

    10. Was that the guy with the emu?

      Scotland is not a country in any meaningful sense. But that's not a problem for me! If I'd been around in the 1700s, I may have been somewhat irritated. But I was born almost 300 years later. It's not relevant anymore. Yet we still pretend we're a country, with a diddy football team that can't even pass the ball.

    11. Btw there were more things to be peed off about in the 1700s than political union with England - plague, infant mortality, breach birth, minor infection, 18 hour days spent in back breaking agricultural work, being the 'wrong' type of Protestant - or, heaven forbid - a Catholic!

      When the Scots rioted upon the act of union, they had their priorities somewhat screwed up.

    12. Tell that to the victims of the Highland Clearances just a few decades later.

    13. Post Jacobite uprising and enforced largely by lowland Scots.

    14. You mean a bit like George Younger or Malcolm Rifkind being Mrs Thatcher's enforcer in Jockland?

    15. I don't recall the SNP receiving many votes in those days.

      Isn't this idea of a tory 'enforcer' a wee Bit disingenuous? I've heard Mundell described as the 'governor general'. I know it fits the nationalist narrative. But these guys were elected in Scotland, by Scots, to represent them.

      To call Mundell a 'governor general' is to sh1t all over the Scotsmen and Scotswomen who voted for him.

      One Scotland? It's just an empty slogan Salmond exploited on the day of his disgrace.

    16. I think it's to do with the fact that e.g. for the first time in history (that I'm aware of), the Scottish Affairs Committee has a majority of, erm, English MPs. That is colonial governance.

    17. "One nation, One United Kingdom"

      Now that's a hollow slogan if not acutely embarrassing. Tories got their erse handed to them on a plate in N. Ireland (DUP and SDLP even united to vote down their welfare bill), got thrashed in Scotland, lost badly in Wales, and only managed a reasonably plurality in England.

      Tories couldn't be doing more to disunite the Kingdom.

    18. Colonial governance! LOL

      Do you really have such a low view of yourself as that?

      The Scottish Affairs Committee has historically been cross party in nature. But Scotland is now a one party state so if you want to maintain a multi-party balance, MPs have to be drawn from elsewhere. The SNP want dominance of the committee, despite getting less than half the votes of the people of Scotland.

      If that's the SNP's idea of being fair and democratic, give me the 'colonialism' any day.

  4. The labour party will most definitely split. The Corbynites will go from strength to strength. The splitters will eventually vanish into oblivion, whereupon the wiser ones will join the tories where they rightly belong. In 2020 the splitters will vanish from the face of the earth…………….

  5. People seem to forget that England has just voted for a Tory majority government. There is no evidence that they are ready to embrace socialism, quite the opposite. Any reading of the issue polling in England shows:
    Immigration controls a positive
    Welfare cuts a positive
    Deficit reduction a positive
    Trident a positive

    Unfortunately this is the case, now a clever leader might be able to lead the South away from this neo-liberal consensus but it would need a gradualist approach and a leader who demonstrated both respectability, reasonableness and charisma. Corbyn is not that leader, there is a reason he has been a back bencher for 32 years. It will also take more than a single election.

    Corbyn will be a disaster as a leader, the Tories and the Tory press will crucify him. This is madness borne out of denial and anger at the unexpected election defeat. Even if Labour can depose Corbyn over the next year or two, how much damage to Labour's credibility will be done?

    Labour already struggle on the economy, how will Corbyn's helicopter money proposal help Labour on economic credibility? It won't it may be a great idea but it will be portrayed as 'Labour bankrupting the country again'

    Corbyn's views on NATO, America and his association with terrorists and terrorist groups, will wreck Labour's defence credentials.

    This is going to be worse than the 80s, this is not a suicide note, this is the suicide.

    1. That sums it up quite well.

    2. The "he's been a back-bencher for 32 years" is the killer line, for me.

      A prospective party leader, and especially a prospective PM, should have a political pedigree. He should have held a number of cabinet positions and be something of a big beast. Ordinary voters should have heard of him. For Corbyn to have sat on the back benches making essentially no mark at all for over three decades says a lot about him and it isn't good. He may be a decent man and a good constituency MP, but this is a very different job with very different requirements.

      It also means he's knocking on elderly. That needn't be a bad thing as experience is important and I think we've had PMs who were too young in recent decades (Blair and Cameron). But Corbyn has become elder without becoming an elder statesman, and that's dodgy. He looks tired and clapped-out, and remember what the press did to Menzies Campbell for looking old.

      And thirdly, with a career that long comes baggage. The right-wing press will be all too eager to rake up all the muck they can find and they'll probably do better than cutting his sister's doll's hair.

    3. To be fair to Corbyn, I first knew who he was when I was still at school. I certainly can't say that about Andy Burnham (let alone Liz Kendall).

    4. Oh, I agree none of the rest of them are any better. But they won't be subjected to the monstering Corbyn is going to get (is already getting).

  6. Hard left? The policies referred to are pretty much centre ground in Scandinavia.

    1. Ah yes,but we are talking about Little England whose politics are those of the shop keeper,at least according to a certain French Emperor and confirmed by Madame Thatcher.
      This is where England's political parties now find themselves,inward looking and xenophobic.
      Corbyn represents the last of a British Labour party who were progressive and inclusive,even us Scots,but that has long gone from their thinking.
      A decent man,as far as I can tell but on a hiding to nothing in England.

    2. Inward looking? Saint Bob of Geldoff doesn't seem to think so - he recently showered the UK government with praise for its commitment to international aid.

      Xenophobic? Again, I can only point to the net immigration figures of around 300,000 a year. Britain takes in a city the size of Glasgow every two years - and most of them settle in England.

      Your wee attempt to villify everything English is not supported by the evidence.

  7. This is pretty speculative at best. For one, it completely ignores the potential that Corbyn might moderate his platform to keep the party together. Even Blair, who had strong support among MPs (which Corbyn doesn't have at all) moderated his positions in the early years to keep the left on side. Corbyn will win the leadership because of the membership, but he needs support from his MPs to get anything done in parliament and that means holding an olive branch out to the centre.

    And the example mentioned here (NATO) will be pretty high on that list. It's not just the right-wing of the Labour party that are closer to David Cameron on that issue; the entire centre of British politics supports staying in NATO, the SNP included. You could just about make a case for Corbyn winning an election on left-wing economics, but Labour advocating leaving NATO is simply shooting themselves in the foot, which is precisely why the SNP changed their policy on it.

    There are also huge costs politically to breaking off from Labour rather than trying to leverage it from inside. Just disagreeing on issues isn't enough for a party to break apart, otherwise the Tories would have split years ago. A split isn't just risky on an individual level, it could effectively destroy any chance the left has of defeating the Tories for decades. You don't make that decision unless it's an absolute last resort and nobody knows at this point how "bad" it would get because we have no idea how Corbyn is going to try and lead the party.

    Dreaming up reasons why something you'd like to happen might actually happen isn't political analysis, it's just wishful thinking.

    1. "For one, it completely ignores the potential that Corbyn might moderate his platform to keep the party together."

      Absolutely. It completely ignores that because it's not a credible possibility. Jeremy Corbyn is not standing for the leadership to become Neil Kinnock Mark II. Yes, he'll trim his sails here and there, but he's not going to compromise on many things that are absolute red lines for the Labour "mainstream". I see little reason to suppose he'll modify his stance on NATO. I see absolutely no reason whatever to suppose he'll modify his position on unilateral nuclear disarmament.

      And, yes, this blogpost is speculative. That is, as they say, a feature not a bug. Sorry, but you appear to have misunderstood the whole nature of the exercise.

    2. James, the renewal of Trident needs to be approved by parliament by end of March 2016. The new generation of Trident submarines and missiles will last until about 2058 and be paid for over the next thirty years.

      So, if Corbyn were to become PM in 2020, Trident renewal is signed, sealed and delivered by that point. He can then say "we don't approve of this - but the last government signed us up to it".

      So, in a way, Trident could be to Jeremy Corbyn what the Lisbon Treaty was to David Cameron. "Hey guys, you know, we don't like this anymore than you do - but it's done".

    3. Oh, he could do that, but he's not going to. That's the Kinnock way, not the Corbyn way. Doubtless our friend Centripetal will regard that statement as more "wishful thinking" on my part, but in truth anyone who thinks that Corbyn - Corbyn of all people - will conveniently keep the Labour party united by compromising on unilateral nuclear disarmament is guilty of extreme wishful thinking.

    4. This is Jeremy Corbyn a guy that has rebelled against the Labour whip on hundreds of occasions. The idea that he will suddenly become a pragmatic politician after 30+ years of idealism is not credible. Corbyn is not going to change his spots, he will believe he has a mandate and will stick to his guns.

      2020 is immaterial, it is how many Labour MPs will follow Corbyn into the lobby to vote against Trident early next year.

    5. It's going to be an extremely interesting few months! Corbyn, Trident, the Holyrood election - can anyone remember a time when British politics was in such a state of flux? Fantastic stuff!

      Cancelling Trident after it's been ordered will probably really annoy some massive American defence corporation - and their friends in the American government.

      America still packs a punch. Bad idea to piss them off. But I suppose Corbyn wont care. He's anti American, anti capitalism, anti western.

      But the people first have to vote for him. Not a chance in hell.

  8. "One nation, One United Kingdom"

    Erm, no Dave. 4 nations, one very disunited Kingdom thanks to the Tories.

    I just hope the damage the Tories are doing in N. Ireland will not result in a Stormont collapse and potential return of the troubles.

  9. A Labour split is possible but the odious Blairites would need someone to actually kickstart it off since, while self-justification (no matter how tenuous) has always been a speciality of the right-wing of the Labour party, someone with the balls to actually do the deed has not. Hence David Milliband bottling it over Brown.

    They are unprincipled careerists and if something looks risky to their own self-interest they will hesitate and balk at being the first to make such a massive career defining move. So unless the right of the Labour party finds a standard bearer willing to walk the walk I would still say a split is pretty unlikely.

    The fact that it was out of touch tories and westminster bubble twits who thought the amusingly dire Kendall was the answer is as telling as complete inability of (the only slightly less Blairite) Burnham and Cooper to work together to defeat Corbyn. The Labour right would have to coalesce round someone (or more likely several MPs) who not only isn't as crap as Kendall but who actually has clear plan for a breakaway and the ability to take enough MPs with them to make it more than a joke.

    The other thing to bear in mind is that everything that has transpired from establishment Labour and the PLP points to them preparing to overthrow Corbyn.

    The jawdropping spectacle of the #LabourPurge isn't just absolute proof of the Labour establishment's utter contempt for democracy but it self-evidently can't hope to change the numbers enough to have a really meaningful impact. That is not it's purpose.

    Establishment Labour and the Blairites are doing it to muddy the waters as much as possible and create controversy and doubt around the Leadership election process itself.

    Certainly, should Burnham or Copper win they would have an inquiry and magically find everything was just super and 'a storm in a teacup'. However, they are preparing for a Corbyn win so the whisper campaign would begin the second a Corbyn win was announced with the right wing dirty tricks and smears going into overdrive with the PLP would constantly whining about a "flawed process" to justify their disloyalty.

    So the question does become could the PLP overthrow Corbyn?

    Yes. If they are determined enough and don't mind getting their hands dirty then they could indeed make Labour under Corbyn completely ungovernable and a chaotic mess of infighting and not very subtle actions that would undermine him at every turn.

    We are talking about the type of unprincipled careerists who simply did not give a fuck about what the grassroots or indeed anyone else thought about invading Iraq. (Just like the tory twits and Neocon twats who supported them on that moronic catastrophe) So it's not as if establishment Labour will suddenly start caring about what the grassroots think now when they have careers to protect.

  10. Finally, always bear this in mind about the utter chaos playing out in westminster. Not only did we predict utter chaos for this westminster term but this is only the beginning.

    By far the most amusing thing about the Labourshambles isn't what Labour are doing, but the completely oblivious way in which the nasty party tories and westminster bubble twits are wetting themselves with glee. Seemingly unaware that next year it's THEIR turn and all their shrieking about Corbyn will be a fond memory as they tear themselves apart over Europe.

    It is a certainty.

    Nor will desperately trying to gloss over the coming tory civil war with vague references to a Europe split fool anyone.

    Let's face the facts. On a fairly regular basis the incompetent fop was humiliated by the Eurosceptics in his own party during the last term and that was when he had Clegg's ostrich faction to hide behind and blame for his own weakness.

    He doesn't have that excuse now and with a tiny majority less than John Major's he's going to face the mother and father of all Europe splits.

    Cameron has to try and force the tory party into enthusiastically supporting a Yes not just to Europe but to EU immigration. Make no mistake, in England the OUT campaign will be almost all IMMIGRATION all the time.

    So the Cameroons are going to go into next year faced with the impossible task of presenting a united front that is not only pro-Europe but pro-EU immigration. It's Yes or No. There is no middle ground. Cameron won't be able to pretend a Yes is a No any more than Major was able to control his Eurosceptics when they caused utter chaos.

    In the end the tory party will be choosing whether they, as a party, are pro-Europe and pro-EU immigration or whether they are Eurosceptic.

    Of course that might not last long and the nasty party might just keep the chaos going after the referendum since toppling a leader over Europe has always been a tory speciality even when the stakes were less high than they will be next year. Cameron could well go down in history as the new Ted Heath.

    So when the nasty party chaos and omnishambles over Europe begins next year just remember the out of touch twits, Pouters and Cameroons obliviously laughing at the Labourshambles right now.

    Rest assured, we will remember and will we be enjoying it all hugely, to say the least. ;o)