Bernard Ingham: Labour's long, lonely wait for end to Corbyn madness

AS Frank Sinatra so plaintively put it: 'It's a long, long time from May to December but the days grow short when you reach September.'

Is Jeremy Corbyn presiding over the break-up of the Labour Party?

For serious members of the Labour Party it’s been an interminably long time getting even to September and from now on the days will never be short enough for them as their current leader stumbles – and occasionally sits on the floor – en route to his expected re-election in a fortnight’s time.

They fervently wish the days they had to spend with Jeremy Corbyn would be precious few. But it looks as if they are stuck with him thanks to the naivete of Ed Miliband’s £3 membership fee and the political zealotry of Corbyn’s Trot supporters.

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Worse still, as the days dwindle down, it is now clear that Owen Smith, Corbyn’s rival, offers no real alternative. Being owt for tuppence, as they used to say in Hebden Bridge, his politics are often indistinguishable from Corbyn’s. He thinks the way to power is Left foot first and, curiously, defying the people over Brexit.

Smith’s prime need is to sort himself out before seeking to impose himself on the nation.

All this means that Labour is stuck in a Hard Left time warp that presents far worse problems than when Neil Kinnock began to clear out the party’s Augean stable, starting with the repulsive Derek Hatton in Liverpool.

For one thing, there is no moderate leader in sight – or at least no moderate with guts, command and charisma – to take on Corbyn. And there may be precious few moderates left if Corbyn bows, as he will, to John McDonnell’s urge to de-select the majority of the Parliamentary Labour Party who have opposed him.

Most of the party’s main financiers – the unions – are behind Corbyn and you can be sure that the iron hand of the Hard Left will rule so long as Len McCluskey leads Unite.

He and his union cronies want a nationalised, union-dominated, financially free (with other people’s money) socialist society where everyone knows his place behind Corbyn – and, of course, McCluskey. Union and party activism will be the only means to social mobility.

The only possible break point is over defence. Corbyn’s dangerous pacifism – his curious belief, given the state of the planet, that all men on earth can live peaceably together – will have no chance where it interferes with the unions’ determination to maintain employment through Trident.

My guess is that Corbyn will bow the knee while making it clear his finger will never be on the nuclear trigger.

So, where do we go from here, assuming Corbyn is re-elected with a substantial majority?

Are we witnessing the Labour Party slowly dying from Corbyn poisoning?

Will the Labour Party split, leaving a militant army less worried about office than wrecking the country and a New Social Democrat party that will struggle because it is neither one thing nor the other? You can’t make capitalism work towards a more equal society if you don’t believe in it.

The last defection from the Labour Party produced little more than a Gang of Four, a few by-election wonders and the Liberal Party confused into irrelevance.

More to the point, the new dominatrix in No 10 – Theresa May – is bent on a social revolution that would, if it were anywhere near successful, render a new Social Democrat Party redundant.

Is there anything left for the old Labour Party but to become a boil – a Corbyncle? – on Britain’s backside?

The truth is that it has never known what it stands for since Margaret Thatcher made it electable again by forcing change. But between them the agents of change – Tony Blair and Gordon Brown – comprehensively blew their chance to take command of British politics. And in offending the purists they produced an incompetent Left response in Ed Miliband who was but a staging post to Corbyn.

My guess is that, like most politicians, the moderates will play the waiting game that Sinatra had no time for. But it’s a long, long time from 2016 to 2020 waiting for something to turn up before Corbyn is expected to be thrashed in a general election.

They would help themselves, their party, British politics and the nation’s governance if they formulated an appeal to the country with a fighting chance of success – and fought like hell to stem the militant tide in their constituencies.

The nation might then want to spend more than a few precious days with them.