MITCH BENN: Long road back for Labour’s left

Labour leader Keir Starmer. Photograph: Joe Giddens/PA.

Labour leader Keir Starmer. Photograph: Joe Giddens/PA. - Credit: PA

After poking fun at the Conservative Party, MITCH BENN reports on the long road ahead for the Labour Party.

Eagle-eyed (and elephant-brained) readers may recall that I spent all of last week's column poking fun at the Conservative Party; specifically the way that occasional attempts by Tory politicians to look and act normal merely serve to make them appear weirder than ever.

Balance dictates therefore that this column be given over to haranguing or criticising the Labour Party, or at least an aspect of it, so here goes:

Hello Corbyntologists! I realise none of you would be caught dead reading this centrist melt-rag but in the event this article reaches you, relax. I'm not here to tell you that you're an embarrassing vestige of the most disastrous chapter in the Labour Party's history or that your continued presence in the discourse serves only to further wound and disable the movement you claim to love so much.

I mean, that is all true, every word of it, but that's not what I'm here to tell you. And yes, you're right, it isn't fair that I say I'm going to lay into the Labour Party and then start laying into you instead when you're not running the Labour Party any more, but that's rather the point, isn't it? You're not running the Labour Party any more and the sooner you realise that, the better off everyone – including you – will be.


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What I'm here to tell you is that there is a way back for your movement; a way back to wielding influence within the party and possibly even power within the country (I do realise you consider winning power to be beneath you, but please read on). It's just that the way you're going about it at the moment is all wrong.

I'm sure all of you (speaking to the general readership again now) have heard about, if not actually heard, the interview given to Times Radio's Matt Chorley by erstwhile Labour big deal David Miliband, who in an alternate reality not too far from our own has just won a second term as Labour prime minister but who in our universe now lives in New York running something called the International Rescue Committee, which to certain generations makes it sound like he goes to work in a rocket ship that's stashed under a retractable swimming pool.

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Miliband described the Branch Corbynians' continued insistence that only subterfuge within the party prevented Jeremy from winning in 2017 as 'a wrecking tactic' and 'denial' from which the party needs to move on.

It is true that Corbyn's followers spending the years 2017-2019 heaping praise upon the sainted Jeremy for winning an election he lost mired the party in a group delusion which left it utterly unable to contest the next general election when it came.

The sad fact is that in 2017, Jeremy Corbyn failed to beat the most disastrously inept Tory campaign in Conservative history, but rather than consider where they might have gone wrong, the Corybinistas spent two and a half years congratulating themselves and convincing themselves that 2017 was not a blip or an aberration, but the first step towards inevitable victory, however much the available polling data screamed otherwise.

Last December's implosion of the Labour vote does, however, present the hard left with an opportunity, even if it's not the one they think it does.

However well Keir Starmer may now be polling personally, he's been left with an almost insurmountable mountain to climb if he's to win the next general election, whenever it happens.

He needs a swing so epic as to make 1997 look like a minor course correction, and there's probably no way he can do it without some form of electoral pact with the other progressive parties.

This in turn is unlikely to be achieved without Starmer pledging to see through voting reform once in office (the Liberal Democrats, Greens, Scots Nats and the rest will want some return on their investment and the smaller parties crave an end to first-past-the-post).

So if the Corbynoids really want to steer the country towards 'real socialism', the last thing they should be doing is undermining Starmer from within Labour or splitting from the party... yet.

If the remaining Corbyn supporters throw in their lot wholeheartedly and unequivocally with Starmer's Labour Party (New New Labour? Newer Labour?) just long enough to get him into Number 10 at the head of an Anyone But The Tories coalition, then help him get some form of proportional representation Act passed (which would have the side benefit of breaking the Conservative Party's stranglehold on general elections)... and then break away from the Labour Party and form, I don't know, The Sons Of Jeremy Party, or The Real Labour Party, or I Can't Believe It's Not Labour or Utterly Labourly (they'll figure it out)... then at the election after that, in 2028 or whenever, this new 'pure' socialist party could actually win some seats and gain some influence within the new, PR-elected parliament.

What do you think, Corbyntologists? I know it's a longer game than you're used to playing but it sounds like a plan to me. Think this centrist dad might be onto something...?

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