Sunday, 15 December 2019

Dear hard left: you broke it, you own it.

The Vase Fell on the Floor3.jpgAfter such a defeat, there has been extraordinarily little soul-searching by the Corbynite left, in case we should have expected any.

To go by some of the comments by frontbenchers and their media outriders, it is apparently the people who have erred, not the Labour party, rather recalling Brecht’s satirical poem about “dissolving the people and electing another”.

Even now, there still seems a question mark over exactly when Corbyn will go, even if it is abundantly clear he must. No Labour leader has ever survived two election defeats, let alone the worst defeat in the best part of a century and, for afters, likely censure by an anti-racism watchdog in a matter of weeks’ time.

But own it the Corbynite leadership must, because barely anyone else was even at the table (we might make an exception for Keir Starmer, but the point is probably somewhat moot).

All Corbyn supporters in the party are not hard left, of course. There have always been three distinct groups: them; the influx of bright-eyed idealists who thought Corbyn nice and were too young to know his history or Labour’s; and the soft left of throughout the party’s history, decent people who did not care to dig too deeply into the views of a man who, like Miliband before him, made all the right noises.

The young idealists, one imagines, will drift away again at some point, once they realise that the party is now genuinely riddled with cranks and racists. Many of the soft left may well stay, perhaps slightly chastened.

But it is the long-time Trots, tankies and Stalinists who are still there at the top, running the show. This is evident fact, rather than the smears they constantly claim, and those of us who have been around for a while knew them long before they came to run the party. Apart from the parliamentary duo of Corbyn and McDonnell, we have the four Ms: Milne, Murray, McCluskey, Murphy. All people who seriously revere a 20th century regime which killed quite a lot more people than Hitler.

These people represent the cancer which needs to be removed from any positions of power in the party if it is to survive.

Once upon a time, the party used to understand this. Like liberty, as the American founding fathers wrote, the price of electability is eternal vigilance. Against extremists.

Ed Miliband thought it was time to relax this fuddy-duddy vigilance thing, following the “control-freak” New Labour years and, through his term as leader, they started to trickle back through into the membership. And, of course, the £3 membership changes let in a flood of these old-fashioned tankies. It is this group which will now have to be ruthlessly removed if the party is ever going to survive.

Some, as the dust settles, are still trying the “big tent – One Labour – period of healing” approach. That we ought to all look for common ground and evolve together into something better.

Nope. It ain’t gonna fly. Not now, not ever. You cannot save anything from this disaster: destroy and rebuild is the only way.

You can take some of the more reflective people from the other two groups with you into a renewed party. You cannot take the hard left, because they do not want to change, ever. They will fight you to the death.

The only way to get them out is to do what Neil Kinnock and Joyce Gould did, pick them off group by group, council by council, member by member. It is hard and thankless work but it must be done. No other remedy is possible. Momentum must not be allowed to run a rival conference and a rival, cuckoo-like power structure.

The Labour Party now has a matter of months to get itself a proper leader and head back towards sanity. Another fool or knave for a leader will result in the party’s demise.

If you think this sounds extreme, think about this: strange as it may seem, in the recent months of self-inflicted disaster, the party has just had the luckiest of escapes. If Jo Swinson’s Lib Dems had been anywhere as sharp as Labour were in the twenties and thirties, when the Liberals were in trouble, they would have hit the tipping point and switched places with Labour, just as Labour did to them back then.

But 2019 Labour will not be so lucky a second time. Activists and particularly moderate MPs, many of whom have been keeping their heads down the last few years, now have a frighteningly short time to act decisively against the far left, while they are still on the back foot. Local party organisations and the NEC must be released from the grip of the Corbynites and it needs to start now.

And yes, we’re talking about you. You people broke this party, now you own the defeat. Not to put too fine a point on it, it is time for you, your leaders and all your tankie mates to pack your bags and get out of this party. The grown-ups want it back.

This post first published at Labour Uncut

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