December 05, 2017
On the Labour Party's shift to the left
Rachel Sylvester offers some insights into the unprecedented extent of the Labour Party's shift to the left. Momentum, the group of Labour activists supporting Jeremy Corbyn, and which managed to mobilise support for his two leadership elections, is now on the verge of capturing its first local council in the north-London borough of Haringey. Moderate MPs face possible deselection because of Momentum's surge in strength all over the country. She quoted Peter Mandelson as saying that the impact of Momentum was much greater than that of the Militant Tendency, a trotskyist group which dominated the party's internal discussions in the 1980s. Sylvester notes that the left-wing takeover of the party proceeds with ruthless efficiency, and will drive many moderate MPs out of politics, or into a new party that might eventually exploit the gaping hole at the centre of British politics.
As the centre of gravity in the Labour Party is moving to the Left, and that of the Tory Party to the right, the big question for British politics is whether a new party could manages to exploit the big vacuum at the political centre. We believe that this will happen eventually - also because of Brexit - but it will not happen in time to prevent Brexit. While Corbyn is populist and unprincipled on Brexit itself, we see no real chances that he will be willing, or able, to undo it. But a Corbyn victory at the next election would almost certain galvanise a political counter-movement that could unite moderate Labour and Tory MPs in a new political party. Buy the history of the 1980s would suggest caution. With Labour on the left and the Tories on the right a new party did emerge, the SDP, one that initially enjoyed a lot of support. But that political experiment ultimately failed to achieve the goals it set out - which was to end the two-party political system. Brexit is a bigger dimension, so it might succeed this time, but we should not treat this as a foregone conclusion. The far more likely scenario is that Brexit happens, and the Jeremy Corbyn becomes the next prime minister, and that the Tories either re-group, or split.