Corbyn leadership bid faces implacable hostility of Labour’s Westminster elite

WHAT IF CORBYN WINS? Labour could descend into a civil war that could threaten the party’s very survival

by John McAllion The YouGov poll showing Jeremy Corbyn on track to become Labour’s next leader caused widespread panic across the party’s establishment and parliamentary leadership. The three other centrist candidates in the contest immediately fell out over which of them should withdraw and throw their weight and supporters behind a single “Stop Corbyn” candidate.

Party insiders bemoaned the “moron” MPs who had nominated Corbyn in the first place. One of Labour’s biggest donors warned that if Corbyn wins wealthy supporters will turn away from the party and support the kind of political split that led to the formation of the rival SDP in the 1980s.

Blair and Mandelson—the self-proclaimed architects of New Labour’s three successive election victories after 1997—were also wheeled out to warn of the dire consequences of a Corbyn victory.

Blair argued that Corbyn was the Labour leader the Tories preferred and that any party members who in their hearts still supported traditional socialist tax and spend policies needed a transplant.

Lord Mandelson believed a Corbyn win threatened Labour’s future as a viable party of government. His fellow arch-moderniser and former New Labour Health Secretary Alan Milburn warned that any lurch to the left would show Labour “has a death-wish”.

The ferocity of the reaction to the YouGov poll suggests that in the event of Corbyn becoming the next leader, Labour might descend into a civil war that could threaten the party’s very survival. If that were to happen, the Tories would then be the big winners.

They are already planning boundary changes that will give them an in-built electoral advantage over Labour at the next general election.

If the largest party of opposition were to spend the years running up to that election indulging in destructive and introspective in-fighting, the way would be open for a succession of Tory general election victories. The big losers inevitably would be the workers left at the mercy of Tory rule.

Of course, such a doomsday scenario need not come to pass. All that is required is for the parliamentary elite to accept the democratic decision of their party membership. If, as they claim, they really do support one-person-one-vote, then it is their democratic duty to rally behind whichever leader is elected by that process.

The centrist MPs who nominated Corbyn to ensure that his anti-austerity politics were part of the leadership debate, cannot now object if his kind of politics ultimately prevail with Labour members and supporters.

Democracy means accepting the will of the electorate, especially when you disagree with their decision. However, the quality of Labour Party democracy has never been that simple.

It has always been complicated by the differing roles and different political weight given to the trade unions, party members, National Executive Committee, Conference, an autonomous Parliamentary Labour Party and the Leadership of that parliamentary party.

For almost all of its history, it has been the parliamentary leadership that has dominated Labour’s policy-making process. This is what lies at the root of the conundrum that Labour policies are often opposed by the bulk of its own membership.

With the arrival of one-person-one-vote and with the prospect of a Corbyn leadership, that dominance could now be coming to an end.

Corbyn’s politics are diametrically opposed to those of the parliamentary leadership and the bulk of the parliamentary party. They dismiss his anti-austerity platform as deficit denial.

His opposition to NATO and Trident is viewed by them as bordering on treason. His hostility to American imperialism they see as a threat to the so-called UK/USA special relationship.

His support for the Palestinians horrifies the Labour Friends of Israel who dominate on the opposition benches. His advocacy of public ownership and of the dismantling of anti-trade union laws they dismiss as a throwback to the dinosaur politics of the 1980s.

If Jeremy does win, it is difficult to see how the political gulf that separates him from the majority of MPs he will then lead can ever be successfully closed.

Labour parliamentarians have traditionally tolerated a dissident left within their ranks because that left never seriously threatened to take over control of the parliamentary party or of Labour governments.

The Labour left provided useful socialist cover for Westminster politicians who had no intention of following a socialist course of action.

Suddenly, on the back of a genuine one-member-one-vote election, Labour members are openly in revolt against the austerity that is the common sense of the majority of Westminster Labour MPs.

A Corbyn victory will threaten Labour’s long established role of securing working class collaboration in the continuance of government by the few over the many.

The party’s parliamentary elite will have the support of the entire Westminster establishment and of the on-side print and broadcast media to ensure that it never comes to pass.

Watch this space.

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