Under Corbyn, Labour is a million political miles away from being a credible alternative government.
By electing Jeremy Corbyn as its Leader, by an even bigger majority than he obtained previously, the Labour membership has made their Party unelectable for probably at least a decade. More worryingly still, it has dealt a serious blow to our nation’s constitution and the future of Parliamentary socialism.
No amount of calling for the Parliamentary Party to unite behind Corbyn’s Leadership can erase the public memory and the political implications of the fact that 172 (80%) of his own MPs recently expressed a lack of confidence in his Leadership and have spent the last 12 months trying to save their Party from electoral irrelevance by seeking to oust him from office.
Actually, the phrase “electoral irrelevance” is perhaps misleading. The impact upon future elections, both Parliamentary and local, is going to be huge. The British electorate is quite clear. It rejects the socialism that is the hallmark of Corbynism, that’s why Tony Blair was so successful as Labour Leader because he realised that and positioned the Party on the comfortable centre-ground of British politics from which General Elections are historically won. By taking his right foot off that centre-ground, Corby and his acolytes have ceded the territory to Theresa May with her high-profile and populist agenda of addressing social exclusion in a practical and very British way by creating opportunities for all, not by dragging everyone down to the same common level.
The British electorate consistently rejects the unilateral disarmament that is Corbyn’s vision for the future; and it supports a strong defence through the renewal of our Trident Missile submarine based nuclear deterrent; as well as the building and bringing into service of new aircraft carriers.
Our electors have made it clear, repeatedly in the past, that they will not hand power and the keys of 10 Downing Street to the Leader of any political party that does not unite behind him, is disorganised, or is inconsistent. That is what we have had consistently from Labour over the last year and it’s what we will see even more as those of its Members of Parliament who have not supported Corbyn are put through the selection process that will inevitably follow the long overdue introduction of the proposed boundary changes to reduce the overall number of parliamentary constituencies from 650 to 600.
This reselection process will pit Corbyn loyalists against “Saving Labour” candidates for the nominations, and will pitch his critics against each other. It wouldn’t be a surprise if some of Labour’s finest talent ended up on the political scrap heap as a result. Others with experience and skill will simply throw in the towel and purse alternative careers rather than experience the nightmare of opposition until 2020 followed by a General Election that sees them all but annihilated in the polls and the misery of at least another five years achieving nothing unless the Leader is changed.
Indeed, from where we are now, with the stranglehold the hard left has on the throat of the Labour Party, it’s hard to see how it can ever be saved from the apparent death wish of the entryist activists who have taken it over.
In short, all the achievements of Tony Blair in making the Labour Party electable are undermined and the Party will be wandering, Israel-like, in the wilderness for years. Ironic given Corbyn’s dislike and distrust of the State of Israel and all that it stands for. Sadly, for Labour, though, Corbyn is no Moses and will be leading them further into, not out of the desert sands in which the Party is now lost.
The Liberal Democrats aren’t faring much better. Their Annual Conference passed off lost behind the media storm about the shift of the Great British Bake Off from BBC to Channel 4, and the obsessive coverage of a divorce signalled between Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt.
The Liberal Democrat Leader, a man of whom you may never have heard called Tim Farron, has one of the lowest recognition ratings of any political leader your author can remember. Whilst he’s probably a perfectly nice chap, that won’t be enough to get him a hearing, particularly given the low numbers of his Parliamentary support in the Commons. Even if he has something of interest to say which might chime with the voters who abandoned his Party in droves at the last General Election in protest and disappointment at what they perceived as the dismal record of the Liberal Democrats as part of the previous Coalition Government will leave voters tuning him out.
Ukip still only has one Member of the House of Commons and won’t be relevant to Parliament’s proceedings until at least 2020 when current predictions suggest that they might benefit from Labour’s woes by taking seats from them in the North and North West of England, with the Tories regaining previously lost voters in the South and South East now that the vote on Brexit has been delivered.
In Scotland, sentiment has swung further against Independence than was achieved by the Scottish Nationalists in the recent referendum. This is probably because of concern about its economy given the significant falls in the price of oil upon the sand of which the castle of an economically sustainable Scotland was hypothetically and perilously constructed awaiting the first incoming adverse economic development to wash it away.
The Conservatives are doing well in the polls nationally, with Theresa May being widely seen as a safe, competent and determined pair of hands, particularly when compared to the alternatives (or lack of credible alternatives). What perhaps is more surprising is the upturn in polling for the Tories in Scotland where their Leader, Ruth Davidson, has struck a real chord with the voters, making the party the second party in Scotland, ahead of Labour and the Liberal Democrats.
Despite all these political open goals into which the Conservatives have the opportunity leisurely to kick balls, this column still doubts that Theresa May will go for an early General Election, and in that decision she certainly won’t be pushed by Labour’s Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell MP, who is using the threat of such a snap election to try and bully Labour backbenchers to come to heel – his heel and that of Jeremy Corbyn.
Mrs May has a job of work to do, she knows it, the electorate knows it, and whilst there might be a significant boost to the size of the Conservative majority in the Commons to be had through a snap election, the longer term benefit of watching Labour writhe in its internal agonies for the next four years, combined with the boundary review costing Labour many more seats than the Conservatives, it might seem to be preferable to postpone that pleasurable dish for another day when it can be savoured at leisure once the mountain of Brexit negotiations has been climbed.
Our British Constitution requires that there be a credible alternative Government in waiting. Regardless of the size of Corbyn’s “mandate” from his own party members, Labour is a million political miles away from being seen as anything even resembling that.
This article first appeared in The Catholic Universe of 30th September 2016.
Cllr Chris Whitehouse KSG is Chairman of Westminster’s leading political consultancy, www.whitehouseconsulting.co.uk, Secretary of the Catholic Legislators’ Network, a Trustee of the Right To Life Charitable Trust, and a Member of the Isle of Wight Council (Cons. Newport West).