Death of a Party

I was born in Middlesbrough. For the first three years of my life I lived in a terraced house in  Newport, opposite Samuelsons Club. It’s still there, but the house isn’t: it’s a car park now. A couple of years ago there was a murder on the street and my old home was where they put the incident tent. I grew up on a council estate on Middlesbrough’s outskirts. When we first moved there, in 1973, we had to be vetted to get a house. We were surrounded by working families with kids. I went to decent schools, and was lucky to have good teachers; good enough to get me to University, anyway. Some of my childhood friends trod a similar path to me. Others didn’t. But we did get some of those chances.

So I’m very certainly from the working class. I am, in the nicest possible way, one of the great unwashed. And though my life now might be described as a more middle-class one by some, I still feel the pull of my roots. And that includes the way I vote.

In 2015, I voted Labour for the first time in over a decade, after regularly visiting the ballot box to spoil. I did so holding my nose. Though I had a good deal of time for Ed Miliband as a leader, I thought he was forced into a more timid campaign than he would have liked by his party’s right wing. A wing that clings to the Blair era, and can’t seem to get it through their collective heads that their time has passed. There seems to be a belief that what the Labour Party needs is a return to the party of Blair. The problem is that Blair is one of the most powerful reasons that people don’t trust politics any more . Trying  to do what you did before in the hope it will work again isn’t a coherent policy: it’s a cargo cult. But Corbyn’s election encouraged me. I actually started to vote  Labour again, because I could see something I could support and a worldview I could at least partly subscribe to.

But now the orchestrated campaign to unseat Corbyn begins. If Thursday teaches us anything, it’s that people should be very careful what the wish for. And the Parliamentary Labour Party should be very careful what they wish for indeed.  This morning I heard Hilary Benn claiming that  the PLP were ungovernable. That says rather more about them than it does about Corbyn. 

If the PLP malcontents force the election they want, there is only one outcome: the Labour Party, at least in its current form will die. If they force another election, Corbyn is very likely to win. And if that happens, the PLP malcontents (I won’t call them rebels, that dignifies them too much) will be stranded, and likely without a party: retribution us likely to be swift and bloody.

Of course, Corbyn could lose. But if that happens, what damage will that do? The exodus of members will be huge, because the replacement is likely to be the exact kind of bland, media friendly void that they think might be electable. And who might that person be? Chaka Umunna? Really? A man with all the easy charm of a pushy mobile phone salesman Or how about one of the dreadful bunch who stood against Corbyn last time around?  The candidates aren’t exactly leaping out.

At a time when the country is in political meltdown, when the nation needs some unity, what are the PLP doing? Are they standing behind the leader the party members chose? No. They’re playing a carefully coordinated and choreographed game that would embarrass the hacks in a redbrick Student Union. Fiddling while Rome burns. If they plunge the knife in now,  the Labour Party that has been there all my my life will be dead., at least to me. It will never get my vote again, because the enormity of this stupidity, at this moment, is something I can never forgive. I wonder how unusual I might be.

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