I am very sorry to hear that Ian Boulton, Labour’s candidate for the Filton and Bradley Stoke constituency for the previous two elections, is not standing this time. In his place is Bristol councillor Naomi Rylatt. Given the Conservative Party lead in the opinion polls, they could nominate a donkey wearing a blue rosette and he would still win on 8th June and in Jack “Shagger” Lopresti that’s exactly what they have done. Given that my vote will be worthless, I am turning my attention to whom I should support and as a Labour Party member it should be an easy choice, but it isn’t.
I tweeted Ian Boulton to ask him about Ms Rylatt’s politics, in particular whether she was from the mainstream Labour Party. Understandably, Ian ducked the question, almost certainly because he is a thoroughly decent and loyal Labour Party member. I suppose I did not expect him to say she’s a card-carrying Corbynista so I will have to find out myself and my early research is not encouraging.
Ms Ryland was one of several hundred local councillors around the country who supported Jeremy Corbyn in his campaign to be Labour leader. Now, call me a cynic but this suggests to me that she might just be a Corbyn supporter and if this turns out to be the case, I will not be voting for her. Indeed, I would urge every other Labour supporter and member not to vote for her too. Allow me to say why.
It has been revealed tonight by the Sunday Times that Corbyn’s top table now accepts he cannot win the forthcoming election. This should hardly have been revelatory to them since everyone else in the country has known that ever since he was elected Labour leader. The Labour strategy – and it is a surprise that they have actually got one – is to maintain Labour’s vote share from 2015 when Ed Miliband led Labour to disaster and use that as a mandate for him to stay on. The hard left takeover of Labour was always about the comrades seizing the levers of power rather than winning pesky elections and keeping Corbyn in office is paramount to their ambitions. This cannot be allowed to happen.
Given that Lopresti, who is a very poor constituency MP, is going to be returned to the House of Commons with a hugely increased majority, especially now that Ukip has apparently stood aside to give him a free run, so in terms of the overall result, it scarcely matters who stands for Labour but if – and at the moment it is an “if” – Ms Rylatt is a supporter of the comrades who are taking Labour to hell in a handcart, the fightback has to begin now.
It is important that Ms Rylatt nails her colours to the mast in the coming days and weeks. Is she mainstream Labour or is she part of the hard left who are leading Labour to oblivion and with it the hopes and dreams of millions of Labour voters? Or was her previous support for Corbyn a one-off, or an aberration? Small this may seem, it still matters. A lot.
When Theresa May is returned to Downing Street next month, if there is anything left of the Labour Party – and it is not a given to say there will be anything left – then the exorcism of the hard left must be swift and complete. The Corbyn experiment will have been proved to be a massive mistake and the Labour Party must be reformed to ensure the hard left never again allowed near any positions of real power. It took over a decade for Labour to get over the damaging Benn/Militant years and it could take even longer to get over the shambolic era of Corbyn. The sooner it gets started, the better.
If I am wrong and Ms Rylatt is in fact a member of the mainstream Labour Party, not the hard left cult that follows Corbyn about, then I shall apologise unreservedly and support her all the way to an election which will see her lose by a substantial five figure majority.
The crisis for Labour is becoming existential and if Corbyn and the comrades hold onto power, then Labour will die as a national electoral force. If you are happy with an elective dictatorship where the Tories remain permanently in office with no meaningful opposition then you will be happy for Corbyn to stay exactly where he is. The Tories would be delighted by that outcome but so too would be the Corbynistas who see a long term struggle to build their antiquated vision of socialism by way of a social movement, where Corbyn tours the country to large audiences of fans who already agree with every word he says. Elections? Who needs to win those things? That would mean dealing with the minutia of detail, something Corbyn has avoided throughout his career.
Filton and Bradley Stoke is a lost cause for Labour but who stands for the party at future elections matters immensely. And what happens before 8th June, on 8th June and immediately 8th June after will shape the future. Labour might be a broad church of opinion, but not broad enough for the empty rhetoric of the hard left. Kinnock and Blair trounced the hard left but they still came back. This time they must be trounced and they must never be allowed back.