The battle for the Labour Party is over for the time being. Supporters of Jeremy Corbyn have won: he has been re-elected as leader and will be in place until the next general election; our party here in North Norfolk has been captured by his supporters. An inevitable consequence, at least in the short-term, is that the Labour Party will cease to become a potential party of government. It will be incapable of achieving change through democratic means by winning elections and will degenerate into a mere protest group,
For many us who were brought up a tradition that saw the Party as the best way of achieving social justice, this is a sad conclusion. These are depressing times. The question is whether the situation is irreversible and if so how. I have little doubt that, at some stage, new voices will emerge, and that they will offer radical economic and social alternatives that extend beyond slogans and soundbites. It is uncertain whether such voices will be based in the Labour Party or come from an entirely different political tradition and background.
This is an issue that I discuss over the occasional lunch with a friend who teaches at the University of East Anglia. He, like myself, is a long-standing party member and we were both asked to allow our names to go forward for the list of candidates in the next set of County Council elections, due to take place in May. Standing would amount to no more than a gesture: there is absolutely no prospect, in the current climate, of winning in our part of North Norfolk. In a previous blog I drew attention to a local District Council bye-election that took place at the end of September (http://wp.me/p5dTrr-cH). Labour polled 23 votes. 10 people signed the nomination papers and both I and a member of my family voted Labour. That means that only 11 others out of an electorate of 1800 gave the Party their vote – despite energetic leafleting in the area. It could hardly be worse.
The question is what should we do. Let me quote from my friend’s response to the invitation he received:
I do not wish to put myself forward as a candidate. To do so would be to ask voters to support also the current leader of the party, his ill-conceived ideas and the entryists and anti-Semites who thrive under his leadership. … I cannot publicly support the Labour party for as long as Jeremy Corbyn remains its leader, nor will I support the party either through donations or by giving advice, as I have done in the past. I very much hope that there will come a time, and soon, when I will be able to resume an active role in the Labour party again
I entirely agree with his position and would emphasise his last sentence. Once there are indications that the Labour Party is ready to become the basis of a credible social-democratic alternative to the market fundamentalism of the current government, I will again give it time and money. The good news is that there are now some indications that this could happen. Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London is a principled, capable and articulate politician who is building his own power-base; Hilary Benn and Yvette Cooper have taken on the Chairs of two important Select Committees of the House of Commons; Keir Starmer, a lawyer with enormous intellectual strengths, has accepted a role in the Shadow Cabinet and will provide the necessary and overdue challenge on Brexit.
Who knows, within a year or two it might be time to start going to the meetings to support such people. My guess is that many of those currently in control locally with have lost interest by then.