The practice of politics has always involved the implementation of policies, at least, in my experience. I apologise for being out of date, because many of Labour’s new members seem to know better.
For, now that he is to be on the ballot paper,* Labour is likely to re-elect Jeremy Corbyn as their leader (although some of these new ones may not be prepared to cough up the £25 that is suddenly being demanded of them).
No matter that 75 per cent of Labour MPs don’t want him, that over 60 of them have resigned from his front bench team, and that there is no functioning Shadow Cabinet.
If Corbyn is re-elected, it is impossible to see how Labour’s Parliamentary Party can work coherently, and very hard to see how Labour itself can avoid splitting, de facto if not de jure.
One point of view is that his Party member supporters believe that most Labour MPs can be purged during the next few years, and that Corbyn will then lead a revitalised Hard Left Labour to smash capitalism at the ballot box.
You may well believe such a scenario to be preposterous. So do I (in circumstances other than an economic and political meltdown, anyway). But I wonder if this take on what many Labour members now think is correct.
Donald Trump has been labelled a post-truth politician – that’s to say, someone who operates on the assumption that political debate is now framed by “the repeated assertion of talking points, to which factual rebuttals are ignored”.
Maybe Labour is becoming a post-political party – in other words, one to which politics doesn’t matter, in the sense of working to implement its principles and policies.
Membership trends may back up this view. The Guardian has reported that a “disproportionate number of new Labour members are “high-status city dwellers” pursuing well-paid jobs, according to internal party data”.
Not so long ago, Labour was a party of working people who elected Labour MPs to help make their lives better. Perhaps the shift in membership shows a trend towards joining the party as a fashion statement instead.
After all, high-status city dwellers don’t need a political party to improve their lot. So join Labour. Vote Corbyn. Get busy on Twitter – but don’t bother canvassing. Or doing any other work that might win elections.
Such an interpretation is clearly contestable. Labour’s machine seems to have worked perfectly well in London during the recent Mayoral election. (Most of its rise in membership seems have taken place in the capital.)
And it can be argued that Labour’s membership is getting more middle class simply because we are all getting more middle class.
But the Party’s dire plight points to a deep discontinuity between Labour’s traditional purpose as a working class party and the cultural division between its booming London part and the rest of it outside the greater south-east.
It probably doesn’t become the Editor of ConservativeHome to write the following words, but Britain needs Labour. That’s to say, it needs a functioning opposition. It needs a credible alterative government.
Theresa May might quietly agree. When the opposition across the floor of the Commons is weak, the vacuum tends to be filled by the benches behind you. And this Government already has no workable majority at all.
(* M’learned friends permitting, etc.)