Are we about to see the threat of a Labour “split” manifest? There’s a good chance and I expect we’ll see an alliance between the exiting Labour MPs new party and the LibDems. They’ll position themselves as a “progressive alliance” misappropriating the term, just as Osborne misappropriated “living wage” to rebrand minimum wage.
Anyone who has been paying attention to LibDem Press tweets will have noticed a decidedly anti Corbyn slant for a little while, the change of tone of which has seemed to coincide with Lord Sainsbury donating a large sum of money to the party. Certain Labour MPs were very visibly present at the LibDems conference. Sadly, for LibDem supporters, they are not going to be sufficient in numbers to fight off the takeover of their party, in the way Labour members have fought them off, and the remnants of NewLabour will jump host body. The other concern I would have for LibDem supporters is the proven disregard the incoming politicos have for party memberships. Expect to be railroaded and ignored; you will be inviting neoliberalism into your house.
Of the MPs who will likely leave Labour to form their own party, I can only liken the situation to footballers who, well past their prime, join a minnow club for a season because the owner of the club just wants to be able to say that Georgie Best played for them, even if Best is a 50-year-old who never runs much beyond the penalty box. Sure, there might be an occasional spark to remind you of why they were so cherished in their pomp but it really only leaves you upset to see them huffing around the pitch, hawking themselves for the cash.
Will they manage to coral many MPs to follow them? Well, they’ll have money behind them and they will have some fading names, names that have been rejected twice by the electorate. The marquee names may provide some flimsy credibility for the new political entity and some “up and coming” MPs may see it as a route to thrust themselves forward, especially if they know their careers in Labour are over. Their manifesto will be based on continuing to tell the media that Corbyn is unelectable and Labour has been taken over by the Hard Left … but that they are pursuing the same policy base that the unelectable and Hard Left Labour are pursuing.
Will any serious politicians follow them? Well, no, of course not, they’ll want to stay and fight within a proper political party; being Labour MPs actually means something to them, it’s not just a port of convenience. The splitters’ party will be run by the same people who oversaw the disastrous failed coup. Also, consider the mentality of those who will split. Since it was announced that Corbyn has received his second mandate from the party to lead, the splitters have been jostling to still be able to take control, including attempts to bully their colleagues into not getting back to the business of being Labour MPs by boycotting the shadow cabinet unless Corbyn hands over the selection of the shadow cabinet to the splitters. Their crude, elbows out, style of doing politics is a throwback to decades passed.
Labour First has been actively attempting to recruit members and my suspicion is that it is intended as a beach head for the new party. Expect the new party to assume a membership of any people who made the mistake of signing up to Saving Labour, Labour First and Progress. They will launch and claim that they have a membership of X but they will have, again, breached data protection rules and, if pressed by any interested journalists, will have to walk back from their headline figure to something in the 100s. Not that they care about actual members, they just know they need to look credible and membership affords some of that.
They may buy allegiances but a splinter cell of disaffected politico careerists, already rejected by the electorate, won’t win elections but maybe we have them all wrong. Maybe there are those among them with principles that mirror those of Labour and maybe they will be able to find a voice that speaks to the general electorate. As long as they are no longer wrecking Labour from within, I wish them well.