Someone I really like and respect, Lord Peter Hain, gave an excellent interview on Radio Five Live yesterday during which he gave an assessment of the Labour Party’s current standing in the country. The conclusion was simple: we’re in deep shit. Not the actual words he used but that was what he meant. But in spelling out the disaster facing Labour, which I would say is also an existential matter, Lord Hain said that current leader Jeremy Corbyn would remain leader for as long as he wanted and the leadership matter was settled. I know what he means. Labour members and the three-quidders (mainly) re-elected Corbyn just last September with a thumping majority. The only problem is that by saying the leadership issue is settled suggests we can’t now say anything about how useless the leader is.
I may have misinterpreted Hain’s words but it sounded to me like he was saying, in effect, that it was up to Corbyn now to rebuild from the rubble he has himself created and to restore Labour to a credible state of opposition. That’s certainly the first thing to do because if Labour is failing dismally in opposing Theresa May’s shambolic government, how on earth could it be seen as an alternative government?
Since Corbyn became leader, his ineptitude has been glaring. When Iain Duncan Smith dramatically resigned from the cabinet, here was a chance for Corbyn to demolish the man and his party over their appalling handling of the DWP. But he said nothing. Fast forward to last week when the Tories got into a right mess regarding business rates, Labour and Corbyn were completely silent. This is not good enough. There are countless more examples that have blighted his entire leadership. The man is hopeless.
If Hain accepts that we are stuck with Corbyn, that’s one point of view, but when you hear one of his key union allies Mick Whelan from ASLEF suggesting things would have been even worse at Copeland if Corbyn hadn’t been leader you wonder what planet they are living in. How much worse it would have been if Corbyn wasn’t leader? Think about that for one moment. Labour loses a seat they have held for 80-odd years but the loss would have been even worse without a hopeless and incompetent leader who hasn’t got a clue what he is doing. Please.
If the leadership issue has been settled and Corbyn is to lead Labour into the 2020 general election, that’s the greatest example of defeatism in the history of the party. We all know events can suddenly re-shape the political battleground but people have long made up their minds about Corbyn and his position is irretrievable. More than that, just accepting Labour’s massive defeat condemns the people to a decade or more of Tory austerity, of cuts to schools and hospitals and the destruction of society as we know it. How can we just stand to one side and allow that to happen?
Barring a miracle – and miracles of the biblical type never really happened – Labour is a busted flush for 2020. I cannot foresee any circumstances in which Labour can recover before then and a new leader will be needed in order first to limit the damage and begin a long term fightback. Labour will first need to learn how to oppose and stand up for the people it used to represent and reach out to those in the centre ground. Or it can give up.
I’m hoping that enough of those who elected Corbyn as leader now recognise the huge mistake they have made. There will be plenty who are happy having a leader if the Labour Party remains, at least in their eyes, pure, but political purity and the complete absence of power and influence is the biggest betrayal of all.