- Sun Apr 08, 2018 12:09 am
I've been aware of this, or rumours of this, for at least a year. There is no doubt that the cash is there and available to fund the infrastructure and startup operation of the new party in very short order.
Some former Labour staffers are already on board, and it's likely that more might follow in the wake of Jennie Formby's appointment. There is a vague notion that significant numbers of MPs may resign the whip and effectively defect to the new party, but this is very vague, and my view very unlikely at the moment.
And that I think is the big problem. There is no doubt that the putative new party has the resources, but there is a huge question about whether it has the right strategy or plan in place.
People are rightly wary of the example of the SDP, which soared like a rocket initially but was ultimately arguably responsible for 18 continuous years of Tory government. In 1981/2, I'm quite sure that the Gang of Four rightly perceived that the forces of the Left and Militant were changing the Labour Party in a way that was intolerable to them. They did not forsee the arrival of Neil Kinnock's courageous leadership and rescue of the party as an electable entity once more, nor Tony Blair's masterfully single-minded capture of government in 1997.
I suppose the differences today are that Corbyn and the far left actually have a very real, and very much stronger than ever before, deathly, powerful grip on the party's leadership and structures, which is secured by the importation to the party membership of around 200,000 members of a new cult of personality dedicated to sustaining Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the party. Their voting power effectively makes Corbyn's leadership unassailable. This may mean that flight to a new party may eventually seem an irresistible imperative. But some MPs in particular may prove diificult to secure committment from.
So I think the new party remains possible, but still at this point, quite unlikely. A general election defeat, whether it transpires following a crisis of government precipitated by the defeat in parliament of May's final Brexit deal towards the end of this year in a GE substantially fought on Brexit (given Corbyn's atrocious record of complicity with the Tory Brexit agenda, Labour would be very likely to suffer and fail in such an election), or, more likely, at the next scheduled GE in 2022, would I think, precipitate an irreparable schism in Labour that would see the new party taking shape and coming to the fore, ultimately, in my view, displacing Labour as the viable left-centre alternative.
"The opportunity to serve our country. That is all we ask." John Smith, Leader of the Labour Party, 10 May 1994.