Labour’s leadership race shows the party has truly lost the plot

4 January 2020

5:30 PM

4 January 2020

5:30 PM

The Labour party has lost the plot. That is the only explanation for the bizarre, self-destructive antics it has been engaged in since its drubbing in the December election. It has learnt nothing. It is blissfully and stupidly carrying on down the path of Remainerism and/ or Corbynism that lost it the election.

Instead of taking a breather and asking why working-class voters rejected it en masse last month, Labour is doubling down on its unpopular nonsense. Pretty much every door-stepping canvasser and opinion pollster said the same thing about Labour’s historically awful showing in working-class ‘red wall’ constituencies: it was down to the party’s betrayal of Brexit or to its embrace of eccentric Corbynista blather — or both.

And yet now Labour is pursuing both, still, with a vengeance. It plans to carry on betraying Brexit, when even some of the most hardcore Remainers have thrown in the towel. And the leadership is pushing a Corbynista stalwart — Rebecca Long-Bailey — as its favourite leadership candidate. You couldn’t make it up.

On Brexit, Labour is still fighting what already, less than a month after the election, feels like an exhausted, archaic battle. It wants to delay our exit from the EU to make sure we don’t leave without a deal. Oh, change the record. That is so last decade. Literally. How do they not die of boredom just repeating these knackered, undemocratic lines?

Corbyn has tabled an amendment to the EU Withdrawal Bill, which MPs will discuss next week, to put off Brexit by two years if a deal is not reached by June. Labour thinks that in such circumstances we should stay in the EU until 2023, by which time a Labour-approved deal might have been reached. 2023 — that would be a full seven years after the British people voted to leave.

Of course, Labour’s amendment has a snowflake’s chance in hell of being passed, given that — because of Labour’s own daft policies and naff campaigning — Boris Johnson’s government enjoys an enviable majority of 80. And yet it is still striking that Corbyn has proposed this amendment, for it suggests that he and his coterie have taken not a single lesson from the working-class revolt against them just three weeks ago.

That Corbyn is seriously proposing another delay to the Brexit process is staggering. It is positively delusional. It speaks to a chasm-sized disconnect between the machinery of the Labour party and its traditional working-class voters. The latter have made clear, time and again, that they expect Brexit to be upheld; and yet the party leadership continues to demonise, mock and frustrate Brexit. The tone-deafness, the self-destruction, is almost epic.

And then, of course, there’s the leadership race. This is where things really go off the rails. The candidates are a mix of the two things that working-class Labourites so thoroughly rejected not even a month ago — Remainer ultraism and continuity Corbynism.

So there’s Keir Starmer, the architect of Labour’s disastrous Brexit policy, who is currently the favourite among Labour members. (Labour members, of course, are far more middle-class, metropolitan and pro-EU than Labour’s red-wall heartland voters.)

Also on the Brussels-loving side, there’s Jess Phillips, the Member of Parliament for Jess Phillips, whose only known policy beyond bigging herself up on Twitter is having a pop at Brexit. This despite the fact that all four wards in her constituency of Birmingham Yardley voted to leave, two of them by more than 60 per cent.

Putting Jess, or Keir, in charge of the Labour party would be a roundabout way of saying to working-class Labour voters: ‘Hey. This party isn’t for you anymore. Sorry. It’s for middle-class Remainers like us. Stay in Boris’s arms where you belong.’

Rebecca Long-Bailey, meanwhile, is more famous for being a Corbynista than a Remainer (though she’s a Remainer too, natch). Apparently the public-school types who still run Labour even following its historic routing by the working classes — Seumas Milne, Andrew Murray — see RBL as the continuity candidate. What a death knell.

Working-class voters don’t want Corbynism. That came through loud and clear in December. They don’t want its wokeness, its student-style activism, its worship of the cult of youth, its preening, academic pretend-Marxism. If RBL were to go into red-wall areas wearing a leadership crown handed down from Corbyn, she’d have doors slammed in her face.

It is surreal how much Labour has failed to appreciate the depth, the seriousness and the historic nature of its defeat last month. The people the party was founded to represent rebelled against it in an unprecedented way. To respond to that by clinging harder to the things that turned off these voters, whether Europhilia or Corbyn idiocy, is suicidal. Maybe Labour has resigned itself to being a middle-class party. From a mass working-class party to a minority middle-class one — what a sinking trajectory.

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