The first cliché to be invoked in the very early stages of Labour’s leadership election campaign is “broad church”. The party has always been a broad church of political views, from the social democratic left of centre to the hard left. The illusion is that those of contradictory and irreconcilable opinions could happily work together for the greater good. It was never thus.
Since Jeremy Corbyn’s election as Labour leader, the hard left took control of the levers of power. All of them. The senior (very well) paid officials are all from the hard left, the elected NEC is entirely hard left, as is Corbyn’s shadow cabinet. Most MPs are from the mainstream and social democratic left. According to the hard left, these MPs are on the right. Wrong. Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson are on the right, not Labour MPs. The comrades call them “the right” because they want to disparage them.
In the 1970s and 1980s, Labour called itself a broad church when in reality it wasn’t. The power was held by the centre left, mainly by the social democrats. It tolerated dissent, such as there were far fringe figures like Tony Benn and cranks like Ken Livingstone and a young hard left ex grammar school boy called Jeremy Corbyn. Whatever happened to him? Tony Blair’s New Labour was something else altogether, yet for this mainstream leftie, it was something I could believe in, still do. Blair reckoned that only New Labour could win in Britain, embracing as it did the centre ground of politics. There was a broad church all right, but one that extended from mainstream left to the entire centre ground. Literally no extremes.
Now, we are here again. 2020 just around the corner, Labour under a hard left leadership with a hard left manifesto, losing catastrophically. And voices from the mainstream left are talking about returning to Labour’s natural broad church. Even some on the hard left say the same thing. Both are wrong.
As Tony Blair pointed out yesterday – and please shut up with your “what about Iraq?” just for once – Corbynism has failed. Voters rejected the man and his party’s manifesto, which was basically the magic money tree. They did not believe Corbyn was a credible prime minister and they believed the manifesto represented a spending programme from the madhouse. There can be no part of Corbynism, which was never more than reheated Bennism, in Labour. No broad church, no possibility of another Corbyn-style leadership, the removal of the hard left cabal that is steering Labour towards oblivion at breakneck speed; in fact, the destruction of the hard left which do not belong in Labour. There is a place for all of them in any of the 57 varieties of Stalinism and Trotskyism in our blue and not very pleasant land.
The future must be one of Starmer, Phillips, Nandy or Cooper and certainly not continuity Corbyn under the ludicrous Rebecca Long Bailey or the woeful Richard Burgon. It will be up to those of us who truly want a Labour government to stand up and carry the fight to the comrades.
There can be no broad church with the Corbynistas. They don’t believe in the same things that we do. The elderly parliamentary comrades are from affluent middle class, usually grammar school and university educated, the members almost exclusively hipsters from the chattering middle classes. They have romantic notions about the working class “struggle” but have no idea of, nor interest in, how working people live their lives. In fact, the very people the Corbynistas profess to support are the ones they know, and I suspect care, least about are the working classes. Tony Blair, loathed by the hard left, understood the lives, the hopes, the dreams and aspirations of working class people and firmly believed not in a race to the bottom, but a pathway to a better life for all. You cannot have Blair and Corbyn in the same party. In truth, they never have been.
Labour members will need to be singing from the same hymn sheet at the next general election or they can hand to Johnson a second term without making him work for it. Not only do mainstream Labour members need to defeat the hard left, we need to destroy them. It is one hell of a job but it is one for which we must give our all.
Never forget that many of Corbyn’s cult following simply fancy a hard left Labour government but would lose nothing, and probably gain quite a lot, if they didn’t get one. For working people, it is very different. and if Labour is not for the working classes, and winning elections, as Corbyn’s Labour clearly isn’t, then what’s the point of it?