So Owen Smith gets elected Labour leader with a narrow margin, what happens now? Are all the Labour Party problems simply going to evaporate? Now with Corbyn and his thuggish supporters thrown into the wilderness, are we going to return to the strategies put forward in 2010 and 2015? Or is there going to be a new vision?
First things first it is highly likely we will see the biggest drop in membership in party history, in fact the membership will completely implode as hundreds of thousands rip up their cards, foaming and angry that their political voice has effectively been silenced. The bitterness towards Labour felt in Scotland becoming full blown alienation, while like the White Walkers in Game of Thrones it will slowly spread south, winter would not be coming, it would have arrived. So we will see a significant drop in membership, and a lot of bad blood as hundreds of thousands of people are left with a bitter taste in their mouths.
No doubt these now disenfranchised and angered voters and supporters will seek new representation, so maybe a second Green surge – or a new party will emerge. Which will tackle Labour from the left and ride on the back of resentment that is going to be felt against the Labour Party and its elite.
Labour seeking to appeal to the falling UKIP vote (UKIP clearly peaking and now on the decline), begin ramping up the immigrant rhetoric. After all they have to appeal to peoples concern on immigration (a line we keep hearing from them). In an environment of rising xenophobia and hate crime in a post brexit country, we see a Labour party that far from standing as a beacon against xenophobia, starts adding fuel to the racist fire (that mug anyone?). This of course alienates some of Labours BAME vote, with them seeking representation elsewhere, after all why would they stick around in a party which is effectively becoming a watered down UKIP with its immigration policy and rhetoric.
Then we have the unions, trade unionists on the most part being wholly behind Corbyn, will either continue a civil war, running campaigns against right wing Labour. Or as some were doing prior to Corbyn’s election seeking to leave the party behind, if a new party is formed out of the ashes of a Corbyn defeat, they could be integral in setting it up, or supporting it. Labour’s union support will clearly be rocked by the coup, and no doubt there will be a lot of angry and bitter trade unionists. The argument of the left sticking with Labour will become an extremely bitter pill to swallow, when after we had a left wing leader democratically elected, they plotted, undermined and removed him. So justifying support when the disaffiliation motions start cropping up, is going to get more and more difficult. It will become even more difficult if this next thing happens…
Owen Smith once getting elected through appealing to the left wing base, after all Corbyn has shifted the narrative in the Labour Party back to the left, no longer has to pander to the left wing support. There being no way he can be removed, with the PLP rallying around him and shoring up his position. He begins coming up with reasons why he cannot follow through with the Corbyn policies he has stolen, he cannot follow through with x,y,z and he brings in a whole selection of policies and rules he kept quiet about. Chief among them will be changing the election rules, and the membership rules in general. Those Labour members who didn’t leave in disgust, will be pushed out in a great left purge, the smokescreen being that they want to stamp out abusive behaviour in the party.
We see a softening of the media towards the party, after all there will no longer be a core group of Labour MPs constantly briefing the media against the party. So the sections of the media that were hostile to Corbyn will shower praise onto Smith, and we will see Smith court the likes of Murdoch, and become just the same as any other wannabe politician. Winning is more important than principles, and if to win we have to get on our knees and play with Murdochs balls, then that is what we shall do! While this is going on there will be a huge backlash against Smith and Labour on Twitter and social media, as the youth vote abandon the party in droves.
Then we come to Labour’s core support who have clearly rallied around Corbyn, and want the party to go in the direction Corbyn is calling for the party to go in. We will see (only online the media won’t report it) loads of stories of people “never going to vote Labour again,” “voted Labour all my life, but not after this.” The amount of non-voters in the next election will be huge as millions of Labour supporters simply don’t turn out to vote for Smith, or they vote for a new alternative – maybe the Greens. This will of course hand the GE to the Tories, as the Tories always appeal to their core support.
Thus we come to the biggest contradiction, the strategies put forward in the failed 2010 and 2015 election of pandering to the Tory vote has one big flaw. If you have no foundation and no core support, you neglect your main base. When you neglect your main base, they either don’t turn out to vote, or vote for another party – so while you may gain 1 Tory voter with your centre right rhetoric, you will lose 2 Labour voters. Now it could be argued if that 1 voter was in a marginal seat then it doesn’t matter because of our electoral system, but if this is replicated on a huge scale, say for example what happened in Scotland – What happens then? Labour support will implode.
Thus Labour are wiped out, their core support abandoned them, many bitter at what the party has done and is doing. Unions leaving the party left right and center, and a new democratic socialist party rising to take its place. What will the point of the Labour party be again? It will have turned its back on its core support, turned its back on the people who created it, and ultimately disowned its own legacy. The future of this party is at stake and ultimately if it continues on a path to be Corporate Labour PLC, instead of The Peoples Labour Party, it makes you wonder just how it will be relevant, or survive? We may occassionaly get power as people get bored with the Tories, but what will be the point of power when we just continue where the out going Tory government left off?
Corbyn offers real change, a break from the neoliberal consensus and this is why we are seeing neoliberal forces rally round to take him down. Yet even if Corbyn is removed as leader people are beginning to stir, and removing him won’t put the cat back in the back. What Corbyn represents isn’t going away and if it isn’t allowed to manifest in the Labour Party it will manifest somewhere else. So Labour can ride the times and be part of the future, or they can resist them and be resigned to the dustbin of history.
Disclaimer: Obviously this is a work of fiction but some of the things mentioned here are likely to happen, some less likely – but if Smith gets elected there are many challenges he has to face. It is unlikely that he will complete or continue the project started by Corbyn and his supporters, and it is unlikely he will have the same levels of support as Corbyn. So while he may have more support among the PLP (and media circles) we will sacrifice the support where it matters on the ground, the grassroot support that actually gets us votes. The point of this piece is to serve as a warning more than anything, if you think voting for Smith is going to somehow make Labour “great again” – then you’re not paying attention. Go back and look at Labour’s recent history and why it got to where it is. Therefore even if Smith takes over there are going to be a whole load of problems, and challenges.
For some questions that I think all Smith supporters need to ask themselves check out this blog: https://steveanthonymiller.wordpress.com/2016/08/04/questions-all-owen-smith-supporters-need-to-answer/