ACCORDING to the title of an analysis paper from the left-leaning Fabian Society released this week, the Labour Party is “Stuck; too weak to win, and too strong to die”.
The paper paints a grim picture for Labour saying almost half of its supporters in the 2015 general election have deserted the party, and concludes that an outright victory in the next election – whether in 2020 or before – is “currently unthinkable”.
Because of electoral mathematics, the party needs more than three million more votes than the Conservatives to win – a bigger margin of victory than Tony Blair’s resounding 2001 triumph.
Yet under current polling, the paper argues, Labour may win as little as 20 per cent of the national vote at the next election, giving it as few as 140 to 150 MPs compared with today’s figure of 231.
But Labour will be saved from electoral oblivion by the vagaries of our electoral system, argues the author. Even if Ukip or the Liberal Democrats were to equal Labour’s share of the vote, they would end up with no more than a handful of seats.
But where does it go from here? The Fabians argue that Labour should aim for a ‘more plausible’ goal than outright victory, and put itself at the centre of a grand left-of-centre alliance involving the Lib Dems, the Scottish Nationalist Party and the Greens. This may be a sensible idea, but there are major difficulties in the way. First of all, Brexit, the defining political issue of our time. The other parties in this grand left wing alliance are implacably pro-EU, but Labour is far more ambivalent and the current leadership gave only lukewarm support to the Remain campaign in the summer.
The Fabians point out that Labour has lost four times as many votes from Leave supporters than Remainers. How does the party regain the support of the Brexiteers without alienating the Remainers?
There seems little sign of the current leadership getting to grips with these problems or putting together a strategy to recapture its traditional working class vote. Another problem is that in many parts of the country Lib Dem and Labour supporters hate each other with a passion, and my spies north of the border tell me that a similar state of enmity exists between the nationalists and what is left of the Labour Party. It they hate each other more than they hate the Tories, how are they going to work together?
Far-left groups are notoriously disputatious – witness, for example, the Corbyn-supporting group Momentum, which is falling out in lumps over who is the most ideologically pure.
Any grand alliance would need common sense, an ability to compromise and, above all, tolerance of different political views – qualities that are in desperately short supply on the left of the political spectrum.
Truth to power
TWENTY years ago, The Yorkshire Post put together a team of reporters to investigate allegations of corruption at Doncaster Borough Council in what, inevitably, became known as ‘Donnygate’.
Reporters were physically threatened on more than one occasion, and The Yorkshire Post was bombarded with threats of legal action – but the newspaper stood its ground, secure in the knowledge that it was acting in the public interest and that it had uncovered incontrovertible evidence of wrongdoing.
After months of work a series of reports were published exposing widespread corruption by councillors and council officials, which led to numerous convictions and several prison terms.
If Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act, currently under consideration by the Government, is enacted, such investigations are less likely to happen.
This is because crooked councillors and bent businessmen will be able to engage in libel actions against newspapers at no cost to themselves.
Any newspaper that refuses to sign up to a Government-approved regulator will be obliged to pay the other side’s legal costs – even if they are proved 100 per cent correct and win the case.
If you value a free and unfettered Press and the sort of investigations carried out by The Yorkshire Post to hold those in power to account, may I urge you to contact the Department of Culture Media and Sport to ask that Section 40 be repealed in its entirety. The email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.