Like the Samurai, Labour faces the verdict of the machine guns

There’s a scene in the Tom Cruise epic, ‘The Last Samurai,’ where the main characters – noble samurai (as the film title suggests) – charge the battlefield against the Western-trained forces of the Japanese Emperor.

One by one, these brave warriors are cut down by machine-gun fire. Their swords and bows and arrow useless against the latest military technology of the time. They know they face near certain death, but honour and belief drives them forward.

This final battle signifies the point where modernity and the ‘old ways’ collide. Where principle makes it stand against an unworthy pragmatism.

I know which side Jeremy Corbyn would instinctively find himself on.

He and his supporters think it is more important to be right, to cling to their truth, rather than to accommodate their beliefs for the sake of winning elections.

Some will see nobility in that. Others will see it as a dereliction of duty. Politics requires compromise and forfeiting the chance to govern deprives Labour of a chance to make life better for the people and communities it represents.

Like the samurai, though, the Corbynistas embrace glorious defeat, making their own spectacular lunge at the Gatling guns. Unfortunately, it’s going to be the chests of brave Labour MPs will take the bullets for Jeremy Corbyn.

It’s hard to explain the unreality of where Labour now finds itself.

The party faces the bleakest prognosis. All the evidence suggests it is heading for the worst general election result for a century, undermining its very claim to be a potential party of government.

This week, the party has wracked-up local election losses in many of its heartlands in the north of England and Midlands. Worse is to come.

Corbyn has zero prospect of winning the election. In fact, he seems to have abandoned the thought of even holding on to what Labour has.

His priority, and that of his acolytes, is to guarantee that whatever remains of the parliamentary Labour party after June 8 contains enough hard left members to guarantee that a successor to Corbyn will get on the ballot paper for the next leadership election.

MPs control this process. It takes 15% of the parliamentary party to nominate a leadership candidate.

It’s no secret that Corbyn would have happily stood down last year when his own MPs challenged him. There was no guarantee, however, that a left-wing successor would make the ballot in his place. So he had to run again (as the incumbent, he was automatically included).

Hence the priority of getting his allies into winnable seats for the fight to come.

At the moment, he is trying to line-up the Rochdale seat in Greater Manchester for his political secretary, the Scottish former MP Katy Clarke. It has become vacant following the Corbyn-controlled National Executive Committee’s black-balling of the sitting MP, Simon Danczuk, over tabloid coverage of his private life.

Meanwhile, the safe Labour seat of Liverpool Walton (actually the party’s safest with a 27,000 majority) is being kept warm for an aide to Len McCluskey, the general secretary of Unite.

How did it come to this? How did Labour embrace such ‘poverty of ambition’ as Aneurin Bevan once put it? How can purifying whatever charred wreckage remains of the parliamentary party become more important than trying to win the maximum number of seats?

Unsurprisingly, morale among Labour MPs is as rock bottom. Seven years out of office, many wonder if they will ever return to power.

Kevin Meagher is associate editor of Labour Uncut