Thursday, 14 December 2017

A 'meaningful' vote? Don't hold your breath...

David Davis is the guy who knocked on the door and persuaded you that your roof needed fixing, when it actually didn’t. He and his mates have been half-heartedly hammering away for an hour or two and you’re a bit worried about the end result, so you insist on inspecting the work when its finished.

Once you’re up on the ladder, he’s dismissing your concerns and telling you that everything’s fine. He’d love to spend more time on it, but unfortunately the crew is off to another job. And that will be five grand please.

So as Parliament gives itself the right to ‘scrutinise’ the final deal and hold a ‘meaningful’ vote, let’s not get carried away. All the ridiculous hullabaloo over the Article 50 case in the Supreme Court a year ago demonstrates that such rights are meaningless unless you’re prepared to exercise them.
Let’s think about the likely scenarios.

Perhaps there isn’t a meaningful deal for Parliament to vote on. Some Brexiters online speculate that the insistence on this vote on the terms of the agreement makes it more likely that we’ll eventually walk away from the negotiations.

Maybe there is a deal. Now it requires a separate piece of legislation, but the government introduces a short bill that is virtually impossible to amend, referring to the agreement in general terms rather than the specifics.

Or there’s a deal and there’s a proper bill. MPs can amend the detail. But what status do their amendments have? Any changes that they proposed would have to be agreed by the European Council, European Commission, European Parliament and possibly the national parliaments of the 27 member states.

Or the ultimate spanner in the Brexit works. Parliament rejects the deal in its entirety and says the government has to go back to the drawing board. But who’s to say the EU would be interested in prolonging the negotiations? Or that they would be able or willing to offer anything else?

What if they just shrugged their shoulders in typical Gallic fashion? Or told MPs before the vote took place that those shoulders would be shrugged?

‘What you see is what you get, folks. Take it or leave it.’

My hunch is that it will be clear at the time of any vote in the House of Commons that a defeat for the government would effectively mean the end of Brexit. At that stage, opposition will be restricted to die-hard Remoaners.

As someone who voted to stay in the EU, it doesn’t give me any delight to make this prediction, but I do think some form of Brexit will happen one way or another. It may end up being convoluted, confused and contradictory. It will be profoundly damaging for UK economic and political life. But I can’t see lawmakers actually putting a stop to it.

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

The Tories have run out of ideas. And the UK is running out of road.

There is a sense of real spiralling decline about British politics right now. The Tories appear to be in full kamikaze mode. Their plane has lost an engine and the last drops of fuel are being siphoned out of their depleted policy tank. The BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg tweeted that the average age of the party member is now 71. Some observers claimed this was fake news, but it seemed for a brief moment all too plausible.

Freezing student loans or offering more money for people to buy their own homes just aren’t dramatic enough gestures for the scale of resentment. When you’re a teacher or doctor, aged 35, and you’re sharing a room in a communal house in London, you might indeed feel you were being treated with contempt.

The Tories have no big ideas. Theresa May spouts half-hearted platitudes. And her leadership rivals look woeful. The only remotely credible candidates currently have long odds at the bookies. Sajid Javid, for example. Or the talented Ruth Davidson, who can’t currently compete because of the fact she doesn’t represent a Westminster seat.

The Conservative collapse is a big challenge to the so-called Centrist Dads. We CDs are ridiculed by Corbynistas as the people who despair of the Tories and Brexit, but have been hostile over the past two years to Jeremy Corbyn. I did indeed vote Lib Dem in the 2017 election, albeit in a constituency where my Labour vote has previously helped the Tory win. For the first time in my life, I made the ‘tactical’ leap, because the alternative was going to be a pathetic abstention.

Now, when I survey the political scene, an obvious truth is staring me in the face. My ranting about Jez is really not going to help anyone. I have been negative and angry for a couple of years and it’s unproductive – both at a personal and political level.

As the Tory conference unfolds, it’s time to state the obvious. People are turning to Corbyn because they are getting increasingly frustrated and desperate. And he represents some kind of alternative to the status quo.

Jez, for all his faults and profoundly unsavoury history, is someone who rocks the boat and offers hope to people who feel that the current economic system gives them little. While it’s clearly fanciful to believe there’s some kind of intellectual renaissance on the left (as claimed here in a baffling FT article) or that Corbyn can deliver on his overblown promises, I accept that it matters not one jot right now.

We are heading for a period of tumultuous change and uncertainty. Almost anything can happen. The Tories might pull themselves together, even though they show little sign of it now. If they dumped May and plumped for a leader from outside the obvious group of candidates, I think Corbyn might have good reason to be unnerved. But any change of leadership would need to be accompanied by a new sense of direction and policy definition. Are they really up to the challenge?

If Corbyn’s dream came true and the Tory government collapsed, forcing an election, it seems entirely possible that he could now win – something I admit I never believed I would ever write.

Nevertheless, the campaign would be far more difficult for him this time, as his fence-sitting over Brexit would no longer wash. The Remain voters who flocked to him in June would need to know for certain that he was committed to the idea of a soft Brexit at the very least. And that leaves him vulnerable in the pro-Leave Labour heartlands. 

So we drift towards disaster with the divided and incompetent Tories. Or we embrace, by default, a Labour Party in the hands of hard-left ideologues. We career towards hard Brexit and long-term economic decline or we do our best to stay in the single market and accept freedom of movement, provoking a cultural and political backlash from outraged Leave voters

I’ve followed British politics in depth since my early teens, way back at the start of the 1980s. For the best part of 20 years, I was engaged as an activist and candidate. Never have I felt such a sense of profound unease about what’s to come. I glimpse an all-consuming cultural war looming with the nation divided along a variety of fault lines: rich and poor; old and young; urban and provincial; left and right.

The next year will be critical and may give us greater clarity over what lies ahead. But unpredictable events abroad add another dimension to our current woes. Not least the possibility of war between the United States and North Korea, which is likely to prove the biggest conflict in half a century and have a huge impact on the global economy, as South Korea, Japan and China would soon be directly involved.

As the world polarises and extremes assert themselves, history tells us that heartache will follow. Tomorrow will offer little refuge for a Centrist Dad.

Monday, 25 September 2017

The Brexit blag? Jez is already squealing.

If you were involved in planning, say, the next Great Train Robbery, Jeremy Corbyn would be the last person you’d ever want on the team. The Absolute Boy just cannot keep his mouth shut or remember what he’s supposed to say.

Note his interview on the eve of the Labour Party conference in which he started musing about the Single Market.

“We need to look very carefully at the terms of any trade relationship, because at the moment we are part of the single market, obviously,’ he told the BBC’s Andrew Marr. ‘That has restrictions on state aid and state spending. That has pressures on it, through the European Union, to privatise rail, for example, and other services. I think we have to be quite careful about the powers we need as national governments.’

You can imagine Keir Starmer slowly and methodically punching a pillar in the lobby of the Grand Hotel in Brighton as he heard the Jezster open his mouth.

Corybn is simply revealing what we have known about him since time immemorial. He hates the European Union and sees it as a conspiracy of capital to prevent the implementation of a socialist programme of government.

The trouble is he can’t remember that he’s supposed to be presenting an alternative face in the autumn of 2017.

The gang sat him down and told him that Labour is now backing the single market and customs union for a transitional period.  They sold this change of direction on the basis that it might help embarrass the Tories and win him votes in the House of Commons.

Perhaps when that little plan didn’t work out, Jez thought the game was over and he didn’t have to play any more? 

Perhaps he forgot that the gang also whispered this might be prelude to a more fundamental shift which could lead to Labour embracing the single market long term.

But before you know it, the allotment king is blabbing his mouth off and sends Labour right back to square one. They look like a party that has no interest in saving the UK from the consequences of hard Brexit. Indeed, you get the sense that Corbyn’s supposed backing for the EU in last year’s referendum was a complete charade. If you don’t like the idea of the single market and its restrictions, how could you back the European institution even at a lacklustre 7/10?

His official fan club Momentum encouraged delegates to avoid any debate over Brexit that would lead to a vote. No sense of irony in the fact that these leftists always accused Blair of stifling debate and denying conference delegates the chance to have their say.

A document circulated at the conference describing any formal discussion as a ‘time-consuming cul-de-sac’. Actually, that’s a description of Brexit itself. And that’s why it needed to be debated as a matter of urgency.

When the Corbynistas crow about their election victory three months ago (which perplexingly left them 60-odd seats short of a majority), they assume that the coalition of voters they assembled will be there again for them next time. All they need to do is add to it. My suggestion is that they will lose the support of many young people who mistakenly believed that Labour would act as some kind of break on Brexit, as well as a proportion of long-term Labour voters who think the same.

Remember, when you put together a gang attempting one of the biggest-ever blags committed in British electoral history, you need to choose your members carefully. Jez is already singing like a canary. Or should that be The Canary?

Friday, 22 September 2017

It's global politics and economics that drive the Uber debate

The storm over London's Uber ban sits right at the very heart of the debate about modern economic and political life. When the app's disruptive power transformed the way in which many people travel around the city, it threw up a whole host of issues.

There's the impact on traditional black cabs and the minicab trade, along with the claim that the company spends incredible sums of money subsidising fares in a way that's designed to eliminate competition. There's the employment status of the Uber drivers, which is subject to ongoing legal dispute.  And then, of course, there are the tax arrangements of the company itself.

Undoubtedly the most controversial issue of all was the accusation that Uber fails to vet its drivers properly and has been selective in the crimes that it has chosen to report to the police.

Uber doesn't see its role as one of policeman. It doesn't even consider the drivers to be its employees. If it did, there would immediately be all kinds of implications in relation to tax and benefits which start to destroy the whole model of the free-wheeling San Francisco firm.

And behind all of these really tricky questions, there is an even more fundamental one. How far can government regulate multinational corporations? While the Mayor of London undoubtedly wields considerable power, does it compare to that of a corporation which generates billions of dollars of revenue every quarter (albeit at a considerable loss)?

Uber, in many respects, is an archetype of the modern corporate era. It brings convenience, makes use of innovative technology and delivers cheaper fares, but all the benefits come at a cost.

That cost is arguably felt by the firm's drivers, who may end up working long hours for little recompense, without the protections of employment law. It's felt by competitors, who see themselves at the mercy of a predatory behemoth. And it's felt by society, if the inadequate vetting of drivers has indeed led to a disproportionate level of criminality.

So this is a story for our times about the so-called 'gig' economy, the power of multinational corporations and the expectations of taxi users - particularly those under the age of 35 - of instant gratification by mobile phone.

What's interesting at a political level is that Labour is potentially picking a fight with the young crowd that embraced the party in the June 2017 general election. Because if there's one thing that goes along with singing 'Ooh Jeremy Corbyn' at a music festival, it's an Uber on the journey home.

The attitude of the Corbyn cult to firms such as Uber is predictable. Shadow Business Secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey is on record as saying that she feels it's 'morally wrong' to use the service. (We can only presume she never receives a package from Amazon or orders a pizza.)

But the ban has been instituted by Sadiq Khan, a man so unpopular with the Corbyn wing of the Labour Party that he's struggled to get a speaking slot at this year's conference. It also seems to be supported by MPs from the moderate wing of the Party, such as Wes Streeting. Can these sensible politicians really be as out of touch with London sentiment as the far-left Labour leadership which they privately (and sometimes publicly) decry?

My hunch - and I'll be interested to see whether it's borne out by polling research - is that the ban will actually be more popular with Tory voters, who now tend to be older and romanticise the past, while bemusing the younger generation that has been increasingly drawn to Labour.

We live in a society which expresses increasing disquiet about the consequences of capitalism, while embracing all the trappings provided by the very system it condemns. If you want to protest against Apple or Facebook, no one seems to think that sharing a meme on your iPhone is an inappropriate or even remotely ironic way of doing it.

Uber will fight TfL in court over the ban, but the bigger battle will be for public opinion. Perhaps that's where they already have the edge.

I was sad when I quit Labour a year ago. Now, I feel a sense of relief.

What motivates decent people to stay as members of the Labour Party?

It’s a question I’ve been pondering intensely over the past year, which I’ve spent in self-imposed exile. I resigned the moment Jeremy Corbyn was re-elected as leader after the contest with Owen Smith.

When I quit, it was with a very heavy heart.

As far back as the late 1980s, I’d served as Labour General Secretary of the London NUS. By the early 90s, I was chairing Frank Dobson’s constituency party in inner London. On two occasions, I stood as a Labour parliamentary candidate.

If you make that kind of commitment, you assume it’s a relationship that will last for life. And even though I hadn’t been an activist in recent years, it never occurred to me that I’d be forced to rip up my party card. 

Today, as Labour’s 2017 conference looms, I wonder how anyone with a moderate viewpoint can kid themselves the party is even worth rescuing.

One group of centre-ground survivors falls into the category of the bloody minded. Like me, they remember the battles of the 1980s and their attitude might best be summed up as follows: we beat the bastards once and we can beat them again.

They detest Corbyn and what he represents, but they’re damned if he will rob them of the party they love or lead Labour any further up a blind alley.

These stalwarts get full marks for commitment and stamina, but don’t score highly for political analysis.

Labour is now more profoundly and completely lost than it was at any point in the 1980s. The mass membership supports Corbyn and he has seized control of much of the party machine. (Remember, Tony Benn never even managed to get elected as Deputy Leader 35 years ago. The Trotskyists controlled particular councils and constituencies and trade union branches, but they had no ideological hegemony over the wider movement.)

This group of tough-talking centrists believes it can win back the Labour Party, but is in complete denial about quite how bad things really are.

There’s a second group of moderates which is still in the party too. Its members don’t have the same level of ideological commitment as the first, but they’re broadly centre ground and were very suspicious of Corbyn – mainly because they believed he could never win an election.

The result of the June 2017 poll has completely bamboozled them.

When they saw that Labour achieved 40%, they were delighted. They felt embarrassed they had been ‘proved wrong’ about the Labour Leader and now have a sense of renewed optimism. Perhaps they had misjudged the public mood? Maybe the veteran socialist can triumph after all? 

The most important thing now, in the eyes of this group, is unity.

‘I may not like Corbyn,’ they say to themselves, ‘but I’d better shut up, as I predicted a catastrophic defeat in the election and it never happened. And the most important thing now, surely, is to get rid of this terrible Tory government.’

It sounds superficially reasonable, but it’s based on a completely insupportable assumption: that a government led by Corbyn and McDonnell would be a positive thing for the UK. Naively, this group believes that a Labour government – any Labour government – must automatically be better than a Tory one.

I can only state categorically that I no longer believe this to be true.

Looking at the tragedy of the British political scene today, I see a right-wing government which is divisive, ideologically blinkered and utterly incompetent, facing a left-wing mirror image. The existence of the former is, of course, a prerequisite for the strength of the latter.

Never in modern history has there simultaneously been a government so ill-equipped for the challenges it faces and an opposition so ill-prepared to assume its mantle.

If the likes of Theresa May, Boris Johnson and David Davis give you the heebie-jeebies, I present Corbyn, McDonnell, Thornberry and Abbott. But, of course, we’re not even scratching the surface here. The true agenda of the Corbynite left isn’t revealed in published manifestos or in public statements of those who aspire to hold the highest offices of state.

We see the real face of Corbyn’s Britain in the absurd and provocative sectarianism of more junior ministers such as Richard Burgon and Chris Williamson.

We see it in the pronouncements of backbencher Laura Pidcock, who decrees it unacceptable for people to be friendly with Tories.

We see it in the ideological war of attrition fought by Jezuit cheerleaders such as Aaron Bastani, Matt Zarb-Cousins and Peter Stevanovic, as well as the vitriolic and comical alt-news outlets such as The Canary and Skwawkbox.

We see it in the relentless denunciations and attacks on moderate Labour politicians such as Jess Phillips, Sadiq Khan and Mike Gapes.

We see it in the filthy anti-semitic and conspiracy-laden forums online, populated by fans of the Dear Leader.

Corbynism is a dangerous cult of personality, glued together by people who are cynical, extreme and fundamentalist.  Absolutely no good will come of it, either for the Labour Party or the wider UK.

Momentum will not rest until it has effectively taken this once great party of Attlee, Wilson and Blair and turned it into a Syriza or a Podemos. Except it’s a Syriza without the swagger, good looks or intellectual coherence of its Greek inspiration. It’s a Poundland Podemos that doesn’t have the courage to stand on its own two feet and survives by parasitically feeding off the Labour brand and garnering votes from long-standing party supporters.

The UK is approaching a period of great peril.

There is a ruling party which is reeling from an electoral meltdown and a challenge of Brexit negotiations it simply cannot meet. The Tories might end up sacking May and replacing her with somebody competent, which would cook Jez’s political goose once and for all. But we can’t pretend that’s the only potential outcome.

Brexit may well hit a brick wall. The Tories could descend into civil war. And the absence of any sensible alternative might conceivably lead to a Corbyn government. It’s not something I would ever have predicted in the past, but politics has become mighty difficult to read in an age of economic turmoil, sickening populism and precarious international relations.

The need for a new centre-left party has never been more striking or desperate. If the public were given this option, Corbyn’s poll ratings would rapidly decline. Think, for instance, how the SDP forced Labour back into the mainstream in 1980s.

The only reason for objecting to this strategy is the nature of the first-past-the-post political system and the belief that any Labour government – however ideological, extreme and incompetent – is better than the Tories.

After a year outside the party, I feel a great sense of relief that I’m no longer trapped into this sense of tribal loyalty. The country, after all, deserves so much better than choice currently on offer.

Monday, 4 September 2017

The mirror images of Trump and Corbyn

A number of people have pointed out the similarities between the populist movements of Donald Trump and Jeremy Corbyn. Although from opposite sides of the political divide, the two leaders both command cheering crowds of adoring fans and enjoy the vociferous backing of online trolls, who take no prisoners in defence of their cause.

Tellingly, Jez and Trump share a disdain for the ‘establishment’, as embodied in the media and the mainstream political elite. Their political supporters patronise partisan alt-news websites and share a hatred of what they see as any kind of official news narrative.  Crackpot conspiracies and visceral distrust are at the heart of both political movements.

The American President and British Labour Leader also share strong misgivings about multinational institutions such as NATO, the EU and the World Trade Organization. They are instinctively protectionist, opposed to globalisation and share an illusion that jobs in traditional industries such as coal mining and steel can be revived.

Trump took over the Republican base and caused untold anxiety for mainstream GOP politicians. Initially they opposed him vehemently, until he proved that his populism could win votes. Then, they decided he was absolutely terrific. There was no better President than him.

Corbyn – with the help of his shadow party Momentum – has largely completed a takeover of Labour. The party’s lawmakers used his abysmal poll ratings to launch a campaign to unseat him in 2016, but it failed. To their horror, he managed to build an unlikely coalition in the June 2017 general election, which significantly increased Labour’s share of the popular vote, while leaving the party out of power.

Since then, the MPs have decided – publicly at least – that ‘Jeremy’ is a success, for fear of alienating the activists in the constituency parties who are keen to deselect them. (This strategy of appeasement is, of course, doomed to failure, but like rabbits caught in the headlines of a juggernaut, they are frozen in fear and can’t think of anything else to do.)

A further disturbing similarity between Trump supporters and Jezuits is their desire to rewrite history.

Corbyn fans believe that in the late 1970s, a model of social democracy was replaced by something called ‘neo-liberalism’ – a philosophy supposedly shared by such unlikely bedfellows such as Nigel Lawson and Gordon Brown. Rather than the most successful Labour Leader of all time, Tony Blair is presented at best as a failure and at worst as a ‘war criminal’.

Trump fans, meanwhile, argue that America’s power and prestige has been undermined by ‘liberalism’ and that the USA needs to be reclaimed from its recent past. For them, Obama is the hate figure, as they detest the intellectualism, moderation and tolerance he represented.

It’s important to bear in mind that these factors alone – the trolling, condemnation of bona fide media and the rewriting of history – are enough for us to conclude that the Trump and Corbyn phenomena are both equally unhealthy and profoundly undermining to democracy.

But what about the Donald and Jez as individuals?

Here, there are some very marked differences.

The 45th President of the USA is, of course, no stranger to personal scandal.  Whether it’s the collapse of Trump University or the self-avowed tendency to grope women, his behaviour generally seems repulsive and reprehensible. 

Corbyn is clearly honest financially, respectful in his personal dealings and therefore free of scandal beyond the rather sensational claims of an unofficial biographer.

Trump shoots from the hip and says the first thing that comes into his head.  Corbyn’s responses, on the other hand, are pre-prepared and learnt by rote.

The most profound difference between the two men, however, is to do with their predictability. They sit at absolute extremes of a spectrum – both equally dangerous.

Trump is a man whose behaviour seems entirely erratic. One day, he threatens war against North Korea. The next day, he seems keen to foster dialogue. He’ll sit down with Kim Jong Un on a Tuesday, but blow him apart on a Thursday.

Disastrous comments about Charlottesville are countermanded by a considered statement, prepared by spin doctors. A day later, 45 reverts to type and starts mouthing off again.

He is as consistent as his last 140-character tweet. No way of knowing what he will do or say next.

Jez, on the other hand, is so predictable that no enemy would be in any doubt about his intention.

He would never commit British troops to any military action anywhere at any time, for example. We know this to be true, as he has never supported any previous military action – even when paramilitaries were conducting ethnic cleansing in the heart of Europe.

This means that whatever the situation, however grievous the threat, a despot or terrorist group would be confident that Corbyn’s solution would be to sit down for a chat.

And what about domestic politics? Corbyn, if challenged, would support pretty much any strike or industrial action. His modus operandi is to assume that workers have a genuine grievance and that employers are always exploitative and greedy.

So when ASLEF ludicrously threatens strike action over technology that would check whether tram drivers in London are in danger of falling asleep, would Corbyn condemn the rail union? Would he hell. The best you’d get would, once again, be some mealy-mouthed formulation about sitting down and talking.

He is a guy who is consistent to a fault, although he’s usually consistently wrong.

So which do we prefer? A leader whose brain fires randomly, leaving us at the mercy of his moods, tantrums and political position of the hour? Or a leader whose brain doesn’t really fire at all, responding with trite platitudes or pre-rehearsed rhetoric first delivered circa 1980?

Both Trump and Corbyn are completely ill-equipped to deal with the challenges of the modern world. Entirely different personalities, but leading politics down the same depressing and terrifying road.

Friday, 18 August 2017

The dual spectres that haunt fans of Jeremy Corbyn

Two things scare supporters of Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn more than anything else.

The first is that their guru will be found out. That a penny will drop among voters – particularly the first-timers who came out in June – that he is maybe not the man they imagined him to be. The second is that a new centre-ground politics will emerge to fill the void now vacated by Labour and that the electorate may, by the time of the next election, have a better choice than May and Jez.

Both scenarios are absolutely devastating for the hard-left project and they know it. This is why they are fighting such a vicious rearguard action in the media against their critics.

One of fascinating things for someone my age about the general election two months ago was the fact that Corbyn’s history counted for nothing. This was a man whose links with extremists repulse many people over the age of, say, 45. But to a younger generation, who have no real memory of the IRA bombing campaign or the antics of the ‘loony left’ in the 1980s, his track record seemed fairly irrelevant.

Many Labour activists and politicians – myself included – misjudged this.

I have to admit this is partly a product of old age. When you’ve lived through something before and you see it happening again, you assume that the next generation will be better prepared. They’ll heed your warning. But history moves with frightening regularity from tragedy to farce and back again.

Since the election though, there have been a number of signals of Corbyn’s entrenched ideological positions in the here and now. It’s possible to see, for instance, that he and John McDonnell have no fundamental objection to Brexit and indeed welcome the break with the capitalist EU.

Veterans knew it already. Others are now coming to appreciate it for the first time.

The manipulation of the Grenfell tragedy to fit the far-left political agenda (Clive Lewis attacking ‘neo-liberalism’ on Twitter and McDonnell’s references to Engels and the concept of ‘social murder’) were another strong clue that we are dealing with ideologues. No surprise to anyone who lived through the rhetoric and local government administrations of the far left in the 1980s. But a wake-up call to people of a more moderate disposition in 2017.

There’s a more everyday example of how out touch Corbyn’s Labour really is with the younger generation they’ve co-opted. What about their opposition to disruptive platforms such as Uber? Last month, the Shadow Business Secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey argued the use of the app-based taxi service was not ‘morally acceptable’, which might have come as quite a shock to Labour’s younger middle-class fans, who probably use it regularly in cities such as London and Manchester.

Believe me, Wrong-Daily’s pronouncements will prove the tip of the iceberg. At every stage, Corbyn is going to be confronted by events. And these events will test his ideological stance on terrorism, defence and security, Brexit, economic policy and a whole host of other issues. 

The terrifying thing for the far left is that Corbyn’s promise of an election re-run shows no sign of materialising just yet, so there could be years of exposure. In the meantime, a new centre-ground party could emerge to offer voters a real choice.

The attacks on ‘centrists’ are therefore a quite deliberate attempt to undermine the politics of moderation and the middle ground. Corbynism can only thrive on polarisation. A man who previously enjoyed a level of unpopularity that interested researchers at The Guinness Book of Records enjoyed an upward streak because the alternative of Theresa May’s kamikaze Tories seemed so extreme itself.

In the early 1980s, Michael Foot enjoyed strong poll ratings when his Labour Party was the only credible replacement to Thatcher’s free-market experiment. When the SDP came along and teamed up with the Liberal Party, his popularity was quickly revealed as a mirage. When given a choice, a sizeable number of people wanted neither Foot nor Thatcher.

The absurdity and vitriolic nature of the attacks on ‘centrism’ from the likes of Owen Jones, Paul Mason, Laurie Penny of the New Statesman should come as no surprise. They know very well that if there were a party established which incorporated the moderate wing of Labour – Chuka Umunna, Liz Kendall and others – it would transport votes away from Corbyn more instantly and efficiently than the Uber app his team condemns.

Of course, the contemptible targeting of people with middle-ground views (and the outrageous claim from Penny that they defend Nazis) is intellectual gibberish and designed to sow confusion.

The essential premise is that the so-called Overton Window has suddenly and inexplicably shifted to the left in the UK. Corbyn apparently is the new centre ground and his policies wouldn’t be out of place in continental Europe – a claim that will come as somewhat of a surprise to Merkel and Macron and even more of shock to those who were telling themselves they’d voted for a radical left party in June.

But what’s the reality? In that general election, the Tories actually got a higher share of the popular vote than at any time since 1983. All that’s actually happened is that Britain has polarised in a profoundly unhealthy way that we haven’t seen for over 35 years.

I have my doubts that the planned launch of the Democrats in September will disrupt the current political scene hugely if the new party is focused obsessively around Brexit and is essentially a party of pro-European Tories. If it did, however, widen its mission and managed to bring in elements from the moderate wing of the Labour Party, that might be a game changer. And a prospect that makes the British far left very nervous and aggressive.