The earth is scorched and barren. The sky is dark, the sun obscured by clouds of ash. Once-proud cities have been reduced to shattered rubble. The huddled bands of survivors tend their wounds, wondering how long they might live – they gave up all hope of hearing birdsong or thinking beyond their next meal long ago. As they shiver in their rags, the feeling grows that this might be the end of everything.
But enough about tonight’s meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party.
It’s a measure of how bad things have got on the Opposition benches that today’s Trident vote is set to be just another event in the ongoing Corbyn disaster movie. In ordinary times, it would be a feature-length catastrophe in its own right: in defiance of Labour’s own policy, the Party’s leader, Shadow Defence Secretary and Shadow Foreign Secretary will either abstain on or vote against renewing Britain’s nuclear deterrent, joined by as many as 75 other Labour MPs. Tom Watson, the Labour Deputy Leader, has been on the BBC criticising them for doing so, while Clive Lewis, who is in charge of the defence brief, is apparently unavailable for any media appearances at all today.
It’s a doubly odd situation. Those who vote for Trident renewal will be voting in line with Labour policy, but rebelling against their leader. Any MPs who follow Corbyn’s line will be acting loyally to him, but technically rebelling against their party. Everyone is simultaneously rebellious and loyal.
As I write, the Leader of the Opposition is receiving hostile interventions from his own benches asking why he is willing to defy the policies set by Labour Party conference.
The outcome is already evident. The Government will take the opportunity to drive home the message that it is united and responsible, while the Opposition is neither. Corbyn will issue voters with a reminder of one of his least popular positions. His MPs will redouble the bitterness of their infighting, as the issue further inflames the leadership challenges. Grassroots Corbynites will have a whole new list of “Red Tories”, “Bitterites” and traitors on whom to vent their anger.
At the end of it all, Corbyn will at least have demonstrated one thing: you don’t need weapons of mass destruction to lay waste to a once-mighty civilisation.