So 183,541 registered supporters paid their £25 to vote, most of them, for Jeremy Corbin. Owen Smith now sits at 9/2, ie still odds on to lose. And the first estimates are impressive, but confirm Smith is still pushing a heavy boulder up the hill.
Apologies I garbled tweet on early sample of 183k. It's 60/40 pro Corbyn/anti Corbyn, not other way round.
— Paul Waugh (@paulwaugh) July 21, 2016
The high re-admission cost hasn’t deterred dedicated Corbynistas from making sure their greybeard anti-hero wins the day. Corbyn for his part smells victory and is already preparing the napalm needed to smoke out the Blairites (the new term for all and any dis-loyalists in the PLP).
The British left (in general), it seems, needs to relearn the lessons of 30 years ago: ie that if you abandon the political field to the Conservative party, they will take it without even a mild gesture of thank you in the rear view mirror.
My first landfall in Britain was just after the 1983 general election. Degsie Hatton was the socialist prince of Liverpool at the time. Before long the whole country was in gridlock over the miners strike, which rapidly segued away from the mines into a national call for Thatcher’s head.
It took another 14 years for a much less radical Blairite left to dig its way out of that tragically failed confrontation with Mrs Thatcher.
Unappealing as they may be, it’s hard not to sympathise with the plotters. There will be little or nothing left of the British Labour Party by the time they get it back. Mr Corbyn is but the latest symptom of cancer that’s been eating Labour since that fateful decision in 2003.
It’s been in full self-hating mode ever since Iraq: the best lack any idea of what remains of their mission; the worst are full of Yeatsian ‘intensity’. The negativity of holding a second leadership campaign in a year was inevitable.
But the venom aimed at Angela Eagle was both shocking and effective. Jimmy Leach:
The abuse is anecdotal and unacceptable. The negativity around Eagle is almost relentless. Sixty percent of mentions around her were negative, and only 15% positive. With those sort of numbers, you begin to suspect either an organised campaign or a culture of Groupthink.
The atmosphere generated in the party between the Corbynistas and ‘the rest’ (the ‘Blairite scum’, you know) has created a malevolence in tone which has made debate toxic and made a victim of Eagle.
Her perceived faults are laid out in full, and in detail, for social media audiences to pick over. The claims have varying degrees of veracity, with 6% claiming she’s dishonest and 17% claiming she faked the vandalism of her office — while, oddly, a further 7% accuse her of failing to control her supporters.
But as Jimmy also notes:
…if Labour is to survive in a recognisable form, then someone has to rise above that, to generate a positivity that survives the abuse and to have policy messages which people can actually hear over the noise.
Diane Abbot has already led the charge against the last man standing, Owen Smith on radio. Apparently working as a lobbyist for a Big Pharma company is on the list of banned activities for a Labour MP. Mr C’s defence of that attack was bizarre, to say the least:
— Jason Keen (@Jason_Keen) July 21, 2016
In a sign of rising confidence that this second leadership election is all but in the bag, Mr Corbyn has put his recalcitrant MPs on notice that he wants full reselections after boundary changes are expected to further cripple a Labour party which is already 100 seats behind the Tories.
The logic is clear enough. He wants the party remade in the image of the membership and subservient to the views of the membership. Paul Evans wrote about the history of such moves over Labour’s history. The same self loathing is evident:
In the early 1950s, Richard Crossman quoted Roy Jenkins complaining that “…every force of demagogy and every emotion is against us. In the constituency parties, which are now opposition minded, the Bevanites have it all their own way. I suppose that one must wait for the tide to turn, as it did in the 1930s, from the Opposition-mindedness of 1931 to constructive politics.”
More than a decade in opposition followed. In the early ’80s, after the perceived betrayals of the Wilson / Callaghan governments, this opposition-mindedness was again rampant.
Something will take its place, eventually, but not before Mrs May has (with the help of UKIP and probably the Greens) reduced Labour to a rump. In already calling for an election Corbyn has made it easy for a Tory PM, who could do with a mandate for the difficult task of Brexiting.
(For those who point to Carl Rove’s clever 2004 campaign of getting out the base as a parallel for Corbyn Labour, please note that whatever his private misgivings about the EU where, right now a large chunk of Labour’s base is on Mrs May’s side, not Mr Corbyn’s).
Then, finally, someone may emerge from the left who a plan to fix some of the damage that anything up to ten years of unopposed Tory government will inevitably wreck. Not because they’re Tories, but like Blair’s administration, it is what unopposed.
Anyone read Zadie Smith’s piece in NY Review of Books yet?
It suggests to me that that the British left needs to re-find its centre. It’s just not necessarily in bl**dy Islington!
*Note that the title was stolen (with grateful thanks) from the very end of the Young Ones final episode.
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty