Barring some kind of minor miracle - on a par perhaps with CETI announcing first contact with the Vulcans or the Great British Bake Off returning to the BBC – Jeremy Corbyn will be re-elected on Saturday as Leader of the Labour Party.
The announcement is due at around 11.45 am.
So after three decades or so of membership, my association with the party will end at 11.46.
Yes, that’s all folks.
I’m afraid I really do mean it this time.
Party card in the shredder. Standing order cancelled.
It’s goodnight from me. And it’s goodnight Vienna from Labour.
I threatened to quit when the Jezster was first elected, but people persuaded me to stay on in the hope that the situation could be rescued. I wanted to go when Angela Eagle was unceremoniously dumped in favour of Owen Smith, but was told I couldn’t desert at such a critical moment and should rally behind the PLP’s chosen challenger.
Stay and fight, my friends say. But over what? The burnt-out shell of a 116-year-old party which has been brought to ruin over a period of just 16 months?
Many MPs are tribally loyal to Labour and I respect that. But the Labour to which they owe their loyalty has gone. The decision to elect Jeremy Corbyn for a second time is so profoundly stupid and destructive that it shows the membership has absolutely no desire to obtain power. The 1980s loony left haven’t just taken over the proverbial asylum. They’ve locked up the orderlies and are changing the menu in the refectory.
The people who support the veteran MP for Islington North are either cynical ultra-leftists who have no interest in Labour’s representation in Parliament or they are people sanctimoniously wedded to the idea that permanent opposition is a price worth paying for a range of abstract principles.
Much has been made of the poor campaigns of Yvette Cooper, Andy Burnham and Liz Kendall last year. These mainstream politicians were criticised for offering ‘more of the same’ or ‘Tory Lite’. The reality is that they provided intelligent and nuanced responses to the challenges of the modern world. It was just that the members – many of whom signed up specifically to vote for Corbyn while the election process was under way – wanted simplistic slogans instead.
In that respect, Ed Balls was absolutely right to say this week that there is a common thread between Corbyn and Trump and populist movements of the far right. They all scream about the ills of modern society with no coherent idea of how to address them. They all believe that globalisation can somehow be wished away. And they have no end of scapegoats for poor performance – the most notable being the much-derided ‘mainstream media’.
Here’s my prediction for what happens if, as expected, the sainted JC is anointed once more.
There will be crowing and gloating and nastiness in the Labour conference hall and in the dark corners of the web. Corbyn and his pal Mao-Donnell will no doubt make conciliatory noises while their supporters run amok, targeting ‘treacherous’ Labour MPs who dared to question his leadership and will start working towards their de-selection. They will approach the task with all the charm, subtlety and grace that you’d expect of an outing of the Momentum Kids’ Club. Make that the Momentum Kids’ Club fuelled by illicitly smuggled sugar-laden biscuits, strictly prohibited by the Dear Leader.
So my message to Labour MPs is this: do not humiliate yourselves. You represent the views of millions of voters who hope for the return of a moderate progressive government.
Jeremy Corbyn represents supporters of Jeremy Corbyn and claims a popular mantle in the same way the Pope can point to adoring crowds in St Peter’s Square of a Sunday.
Don’t go back to his shadow cabinet with your tail between your legs. That’s what he wants you to do and it consolidates his power.
Don’t tell the media that we can all get along again. That’s what he wants you to say and it creates an illusion that he is somehow credible. He’s not.
The time has come for a new centre-left party.
Of course, it will be small at first, but it will grow.
The argument that it will hand the Tories the next election is neither here nor there. As things stand, the Tories are pretty much guaranteed to win the next election anyway.
There’s no doubt that the formation of a new party flies in the face of the first-past-the-post electoral system. But people don’t get divorced because they imagine it’s a good idea in principle. They do it because they can no longer live together. They do it because there is absolutely no alternative option.
Most importantly, the public deserves a real choice in the next election. In a modern, healthy democracy there needs to be a voice of moderation which sits somewhere between the ‘hard’ Brexiters and grammar school pushers on the one hand, and the old-style left-wing headbangers on the other.
I’m sad as I write this, because I devoted a great part of my late teens, twenties and early thirties to the party. I served as the Labour General Secretary of the London NUS in the late 80s. I chaired Frank Dobson’s constituency Labour Party in the early to mid-90s. I went on to stand in two parliamentary elections and have done more than my fair share of knocking on doors, delivering leaflets and phoning potential voters.
I never thought I would one day feel so out of place in the party that I would be forced to leave. But that day has come.
It would be dishonest to pretend that I could ever ask people to vote for Corbyn and McDonnell. I couldn’t bring myself to vote for them myself. In fact, for the first time in my life, I may be unable to vote for any party in the next general election. That’s not just a tragedy for Labour. It’s a terrible reflection on the state of British political life.