Ok so here’s how I see it.
Those on the ‘right’ of Labour, the moderates, Blairites, Chukarists, even the Hazelblearists (there’s at least one) to their core will say:
“We must gain power to make a difference, otherwise you condemn the poorest in society to Tory rule. Without power everything is pointless.”
And who could argue with that? On its own, pretty much no one to the left of Tim Farron can disagree. It’s even part of the Labour Party constitution, somewhere.
But, those on the ‘propa’ left, the Corbynistas, the radicals et al will, define themselves in contrast to the modern history of New Labour, as they see it, mis-rule. This is their ultimate mantra, the thing to which no thing shall pass:
“What’s the point in gaining power if you offer only a pale imitation of the Tory Party? It legitimises the rights’ point of view, and ultimately changes nothing for the poorest in society”
This too, on its own, is pretty fair comment.
However, we have a problem. Anyone on the broad spectrum of the left, who spends any time talking to people of all stripes within Labour will recognise how much these two positions reflect and define the polarisation between it’s many supporters. Any discussion of any policy issue or personality will soon tap into this circuitous and often destructive debate. This divide has become a chasm without a bridge, or a rope or even a ‘sorry about last night saying bring back Tony’.
There is some good news, I think though.
Most – and I have no statistics to back up what ‘most’ is, other than a warm and fuzzy intuitive feeling that I’m gonna bank everything in this post on – people on the left realise, or are starting to realise that there is a sensible place between these two positions. No one wants to be sensible I know, it’s far too Philip Hammond, but in this context, its a good thing, trust me.
That sensible position is roughly where Ed Miliband positioned Labour, and where JC (Jezza not Jesus) is still, somewhat unwillingly positioning it, somewhere in the middle ground of Labour support. Far enough left to offer some clear red water from the Tories, but not so far as to allow the party to be characterised as ‘looney’, ‘socialist’, or whatever else Paul Dacre inscribes into his underlings foreheads in blood every morning.
Lets consider for a moment that Ed’s Labour in 2015, despite losing badly, actually increased the vote share in England by 3.6% and 21 seats.
Of course in the context of 5 years of coalition it was nowhere near good enough.
But it was the collapse in Scotland, which had long roots in the rise of nationalism, and therefore officially Not His Fault which really did for Ed. And of course the geeky persona, lack of obvious leadership skills and propensity for bacon sandwiches prevented him from ever looking like a real winner.
Which is all a long-winded way of saying that despite everything, Labours policies under Ed were roughly in the right place. It were only Scotland and an unfortunate likeness to Wallace which stood in the way of a brave new Red Ed dawn. The policies themselves you could argue were not unpopular at all, not even in England that hotbed of Thatcherite populism.
And this is where Labour, under Corbyn, still, now policy wise, finds itself. Roughly in the middle ground of Labour opinion. And that really, is fair enough.
Its a place from which it is conceivable in a country where 50% of people are capable of voting Tory or UKIP and has a Queen and likes Jim Davidson and votes for Brexit and has a very right wing press which sets the news agenda for TV and has morris dancers and all the rest of it, it is conceivable that Labour can just about sneak in and win, somehow.
It’s also a place which can just about keep together those two wings of Labour in a semi-coherent place, even if its a marriage of convenience, who cares, big tent politics is the only way under our voting system. As we all know.
The problem now though, for Labour and for the man himself is just this – Jeremy Corbyn doesn’t buy into Labour’s position at all.
Let’s look at JC, but without rehashing too much of what everyone says. Both authentic & inflexible. Old & young (he wears bicycle clips). Intellectual & a football fan. Terrible leadership skills capable of getting 20,000 to a rally. And all the rest of it.
The real problem as I see it is that he doesn’t buy into Ed’s middle ground positioning. He’s there out of duress. Given a totally totally free reign of rule Jeremy would, in no particular order, sack the Queen, nationalise the banks, the trains, the Post Office, get rid of the nuclear deterrant, burn his entire tie collection, get rid of all our border guards, give buses and bicycles priority on all our roads and revive that special relationship with Cuba.
Now a lot of that would be pretty amazing to see especially in a Putin-Trump world it would be nice for one country to go totally mad for it not in a Nationalistic way. It also represents the fantasy that lurks in the back of the head of all Labour supporters, even John McTiernans.
Theres’ only one problem, and that it is never ever gonna fly in the UK. Remember that bit about Brexit and Jim Davidson and morris dancers. Yeah that bit.
So JC really is compromising his own, true position just as much as those on the right of the party are accused of doing, in sitting atop a Labour Party that hasn’t actually moved anywhere since Ed left.
It leaves him in a pretty bad place personally as it fatally undermines the brand of authenticity which should be his defining feature, and which might explain those dire personal approval ratings.
Unfortunately those personal failings in turn affect Labours own ratings.
And it is why Jeremy has to do one of two things.
Do a Trump and really say what you really want, and position your party accordingly. Look across at America and become The Jeremy, and do it properly – no tie, the Wolfie hat for PM Questions.
OR – resign and let someone lead Labour who is comfortable with and actually believes in the place it currently occupies.
Now I don’t know exactly who that might be, Clive or Keir or Lisa or AN Other yet undisclosed.
It would Labours best and only way forward as it closes all the loops and paradoxes which have put it in a kamikaze death swirl. A middle ground for all supporters to come together on. And a leader who wouldn’t be compromising their own authenticity.
So, to comes down to this – The Jeremy’s plentiful and entirely benevolent socialist utopia. Or Red Ed’s Labour but without the bacon, or indeed the Ed himself, or Jeremy who isn’t quite The Jeremy, someone else, it isn’t entirely clear, but there are plentiful riders who could do it.
Sit back and watch it happen, participate, make it happen.
You know it makes sense. Just make sure you choose the right option.