If there’s one lesson New Zealand Labour can give to UK Labour after another catastrophic loss, it’s this: look disunited and die.
So I think it’s time for Jeremy Corbyn to split. If Mr Corbyn sees off Owen Smith as leader of the Labour Party, Corbyn will be appointed as its grim reaper. All options other than splitting are worse.
172 of the MPs in parliament have no confidence in Mr Corbyn. The entire front bench has been purged. If one ever knew who the spokespeople were to form an effective opposition, no-one does now. Unlike NZ’s Cunliffe context, Corbyn has had more time to unite the party and had stronger support from the membership base, but has failed even worse.
Any major reforming party is going to have extremes of more conservative, moderate, and radical in them. But this party has stretched its ideological elastic well into breaking point. Under successive elections, the UK Labour party has proven far too left wing for Britain. Radicals always argue that the great majority who didn’t elect them were wrong, which is such a comfort.
The case against Mr Corbyn is not that he is hopeless and has no hope of Party leadership victory. He’s clearly popular. It’s that he would be a bad person to lead the country. He is a genuinely incompetent leader of people. The task of unity was no doubt hard, but that’s the job he chose, and he was no good at it. British Labour need to prepare for the good likelihood of a general election next year so they need a functioning Prime Minister in waiting. By no stretch is that Corbyn.
Prime Minister May will likely give herself enough time to form the EU exit plan, ram through some electorate boundary changes, and go to the polls in mid 2017. Labour in their state would be totally slaughtered. The existing Labour MPs cannot unite again with the full Labour Party, and the remaining MPs after a general election would be even less likely to do so. So those MPs should be separated now and form a new party.
Corbyn, his passionate 130,000 supporters disenfranchised from the leadership contest, the old radicals who will flock to him, and the unions that backed him through the leadership contest (Unison, Aslef and the TSSA) , would be a solid unit. But they would be fighting over not more than a bedrock of 20% of voters. Perhaps 70% of the nation will not vote U.K. Labour for a generation.
This split will either be chosen or it will be forced upon them. There’s no third tenable option. Make no mistake either this isn’t SDP redux. Voter loyalty is now very low. The remainder standing with Corbyn will have to do what New Zealand Labour have taken three elections to do: accept that they will never again be the power they once were, and convince Britain that diverse political interests can govern more effectively as a coalition than an overwhelming Conservative power. In New Zealand that has taken nearly a decade to accept, but it’s still more attractive than obliterating Labour and losing the country again.
The leadership ballot closes on September 21st, and the winner announced at a special conference on September 24th. It will be even uglier than it is now.