It has ceased to be amusing. In the seemingly endless joke, for which the Labour Party performs the roles of both protagonist and antagonist, the humour has dissipated and the desire to ‘see the funny side’ grown stale. Where there were once mirth-filled jabs about Trots and Stalinists, and jocular commentary positing just how far Labour could fall, there now stands a stark, bleak reality. The official party of opposition to the Conservative government is dying. It has been eviscerated from within, leaving pockets of bewildered moderate MPs blinking in the fierce light of Jeremy Corbyn’s ‘new politics,’ while the hungry jackals of Momentum smack their lips and dream of deselections.
That is not to say that those moderate Labour MPs have lost the stomach for a fight. Quite the contrary: members of the PLP grow bolder by the week in their dissent toward the Party leadership. They openly question his character and policies in meetings, and are quite prepared to speak against him in the Commons. Their problem, though, is that they no longer represent the Party that Labour has become.
The vote on Syria has thrust Labour’s internal strife under the microscope, and it is wilting under the glare of national attention. As the Far Left seeps through the Party roots like a particularly toxic pesticide through once-fertile soil, Labour is becoming evermore synonymous with the views, and actions, of these activists and the politicians that they rabidly idolise. Labour is most certainly now the Party of Corbyn and McDonnell, of Milne and Fisher; the rising stars of years past, such as Chuka Umunna, bear little resemblance to their Party’s new identity. And that is exactly how the Far Left want it. They are enabled by a leader who is enamoured with sourcing policy from his 250,000 strong Party mandate, yet intentionally deaf when it comes to the 9.5 million voters who ticked a Labour candidate’s box in May. There should be a rude awakening for them after Thursday’s by-election in Oldham West and Royton, where a nearly 15,000 vote majority is in danger of being slashed to the hundreds, but it will do little to dent the confidence of Labour’s left. ‘Not our fault,’ they will stubbornly claim, ‘it’s the biased mainstream media and their vicious slurs.’
It is that arrogance that lies at the core of Labour’s death spasms. The Far Left genuinely believe that it is they, and they alone, that know best. All other opinions are rendered obsolete under scrutiny from their collective genius. Never mind that Socialism has always failed; that it inevitably brings about poverty, famine, misery and death. This time will be different, and they’ll happily tell you how. ‘Socialist utopia coming in 2020, comrade: Corbyn’s going to change the world.’ Only he’s not. He’s going to kill the Labour Party for good. In its place will be a withered socialist Labour shell; cantankerous Trots bloviating from the backbenches with no real political gravitas. The Liberal Democrats will benefit, as would a newly formed SDP, the logical move for disaffected moderate Labour MPs.
The Corbynites, however, remain sanctimoniously oblivious to their impending relocation to the political scrapheap. The deliberation over bombing ISIS in Syria has driven the Far Left into full-blown attack mode. Irony is lost on them. Why listen to the sensible opinions of Dan Jarvis, a Labour MP and former soldier who – you know – has actually served in multiple war-zones? No, his thoughts are worthless when faced with an angry Stop The War rant from Big Pete in Barnsley. Big Pete is an expert, by the way, because he once saw a bar fight. Oh, and he plays a lot of Call of Duty. He doesn’t need security briefings or first hand experience to tell the world that bombing ISIS in Syria is a terrible idea, and that David Cameron is a warmonger with blood on his hands. There is a crescendo of voices from the Far Left all spouting the same self-righteous bunkum: war is bad, peace is good, and anyone who votes to extend bombing into Syria is an evil murderer. There are, of course, plenty of sensible, coherent arguments against bombing ISIS in Syria. You just won’t hear them from the Corbynites.
The problem that Labour now faces is that once its deselection-crazed activists have picked the corpse of the Party clean of all meat – the Umunnas, Creasys, and Benns of this world – then all that will remain is the staunch old socialist guard; Corbyn, McDonnell, Abbott et al. They are the knuckles, sinew, and connective tissue of the once proud Party: part of the beast, yes, but ultimately indigestible, and certainly not an appetising dish for the vast majority of the British electorate.