Labour’s right is in an intractable bind.
They believe – profoundly – that Corbyn is unelectable. They say that his policies and character don’t chime with the voting public. They believe that he does not occupy the centre ground which is prerequisite to winning a general election.
This bucks the general trend in the Labour party – in a recent Yougov poll, Labour party members support for Corbyn has risen to the extent that a majority of party members – 53% – now believe that he could lead the party to victory. This, Labour’s right argues (with some justice), is a consequence of the influx of left wing members, attracted (or attracted back) to the party by Corbyn’s policies and agenda.
On a personal level, I can understand that influx. I used to be a Labour party member, but left in despair at what I saw as the party’s misconceived adoption of the Tories’ austerity narrative under Ed Miliband. Now, I find Corbyn’s policies – more closely aligned to my own than other party leader of recent times – attracting me back towards Labour.
But I am a political outlier, and what attracts me does not necessarily attract sufficient of the electorate to win power. To that extent, I have a degree of sympathy with those who wonder whether Corbyn has the capacity to win for Labour.
And there’s the bind. If, as Labour’s right believes, Corbyn is not currently capable of winning a general election, then there are two strategies open to them. The first is to get rid of him; the second, to get behind him, to influence him and to make him and the party electable.
The first option seems unfeasible for the time being: as the Yougov poll demonstrates, support for Corbyn within the party is strong, with no alternative potential leadership candidate even coming close. Besides which, Labour has a lousy history of leadership change, clogged up with prevarication and fudge. The Tories’ ruthlessly efficient knife-skills put them to shame.
The second option is viable in theory, but seems impossible in practice. The profound dislike of Corbyn’s politics by Labour’s right and their distrust in his capacity to lead the party to power has grown to the point of hatred; perhaps best illustrated by the increasingly ad hominem nature of their attacks upon him. And this is by no means one-sided: the Corbynites’ loathing of the party’s right is just as bitter and as intractable. From my perspective, both positions seem to have ossified way beyond any basis in rational thought.
The one approach that offers no strategic benefit or tactical advantage is to leave Corbyn in his position as leader, but to continually criticise and brief against him. It is the worst of both worlds for a party to undermine its own leader and to promote the impression that it is deeply divided. All parties are deeply divided, of course; but parties perceived as divided don’t win elections.
That last, idiot approach is the one that Labour’s right has currently adopted. Silly buggers.