The UK is currently a non-functioning democracy. The Prime Minister has handed in his notice and has no nominated successor. The leader of the Opposition has just been served with a vote of no confidence by 80% of his own MPs. Parliamentarians are openly discussing overturning the result of a democratic referendum. People are pretending that Angela Eagle is a credible future Prime Minister.
The country, in short, has lost its mind.
In the clip above from yesterday’s news, Eagle is seen weeping because she chose to resign a meaningless shadow-cabinet post, despite her own constituency party asking her to support the party’s democratically-elected leader.
God help us if there was a war – Vladimir Putin might say something beastly about her hairdo and give the British PM a complete nervous breakdown. Yet we’re being asked to believe that Jeremy Corbyn is so unelectable that Labour would have a better chance with this woman in charge.
(Or possibly Tom Watson, last seen posting Snapchat pics of himself glomping about at Glastonbury like some sort of hippy Nero as his country and party disintegrated.)
So as the Tories send the UK hurtling towards the EU exit door and a future of the imbecilic Boris Johnson leading the nation, let’s review the state of the Labour Party – the only alternative proposed by those who maintain that Scotland is better served by staying with Westminster.
1. Jeremy Corbyn was elected just nine months ago by an overwhelming landslide of Labour members, winning a greater mandate than even Tony Blair.
2. Since then he’s performed pretty averagely, despite being constantly undermined by his own MPs, who were plotting a coup against him before he was even elected.
Against lurid predictions of catastrophe, Labour have done fine in by-elections and council elections, won the London mayoral election and closed the gap on the Tories in the polls, which just before Corbyn’s election as leader stood as high as 14 points.
3. The excuse being used for the coup is that Corbyn didn’t do enough to persuade Labour supporters to vote Remain in the EU referendum. Yet 63% did – just 1% fewer than the share among SNP voters, which has conspicuously failed to trigger demands for Nicola Sturgeon’s resignation.
We’re somewhat less than convinced that the Labour “heartland” areas which voted Leave in large numbers would have been turned around had an Islington MP shouted at them more stridently that they should stop blaming immigrants for poverty.
4. Arguing against this, the plotters claim that Labour would have performed better in the elections and the referendum had it had a different leader, despite not a shred of material evidence existing that there’s any potential leader the public likes any more than Corbyn. He is, in effect, being judged against a phantom.
5. Labour has an established procedure for a leadership challenge – 50 MPs have to back a new contender, at which point there’s a vote. Yet the “rebels” chose instead to publicly quit one-by-one over a period of several days, ensuring that the story stayed in the news all weekend rather than the chaos of Brexit.
The idea of this was to pressure Corbyn into resigning without anyone having to stand up against him – something that the briefest of glances at Corbyn’s long history of stubborn rebellion would have indicated was never going to happen.
6. With all the shock of the tide coming in, the Sun rising in the morning and bears having a toilet break among trees, Corbyn has emphatically refused to do so, saying that anyone who wants his job can come and fight for it. Polling currently suggests that he’ll win any new contest comfortably.
(54% of Labour voters want Corbyn to stay. Of the named alternatives in today’s Times/YouGov poll, Hilary Benn is top with just 12%. Of those likely to actually stand against Corbyn, Tom Watson has a feeble 4% and Angela Eagle a laughable 1%.)
7. Knowing this, the plotters are frantically trying to have a leader who was elected nine months ago with more than three times the vote share of his nearest rival banned by law from even running in the contest.
This opens up the gruesome possibility of the contest being fought out in the courts for months before a single vote can be cast.
8. Should Corbyn win again, the party will surely shatter. 172 of Labour’s 232 MPs – 74% – will have announced in advance that they can’t work with their newly-elected leader. They’ll have no option but to resign the whip, either sitting as independents, joining another party, or forming a brand-new one.
(Remarkably, a furious David Blunkett insisted on television last night that the people supporting Corbyn – that is, over 250,000 party members – should be the ones to split away from the 172 party members opposing him, meaning that each MP considers their opinion to carry more weight than that of 1,462 ordinary members.)
9. If more of the 60 Labour MPs who would be left join the 172 – which is possible, as only 40 MPs actually voted for Corbyn in yesterday’s confidence motion – the SNP could become the official Opposition, with 54 MPs.
10. Alternatively, if most of the “rebels” form a new breakaway Labour offshoot, the new party would become the official Opposition, despite not a single person in Britain having voted for its MPs as such.
Individual MPs are not obliged to stand down and fight a by-election if they change party, but having it done en masse to the extent that a new Opposition was formed would surely be democratically unsustainable.
The country would then be faced with something in the region of 200 by-elections simultaneously. The new party would probably be unable to afford to fight them all, as it would have no members paying subscription fees and no support from trade unions. Without funds for an effective campaign, it would almost certainly end up splitting the Labour vote and allowing the Tories or UKIP to take some of the seats.
11. There’s no guarantee that the rebels would actually give up even after a defeat in the leadership election, though. Yesterday in the Spectator some were quoted saying that “if necessary [we] will have to hold repeated votes and leadership contests in order to dislodge him”, which is a mindboggling prospect.
12. It’s of course possible that Corbyn could lose the leadership election. At this point, Labour would also shatter. A large proportion of the 200,000 new members who joined either expressly to elect Corbyn or as a result of his election would very likely leave, taking their membership fees with them. But his supporters in the Parliamentary party would have no reason to quit, and would become a toxic Militant-style faction.
13. At some point during this mayhem – next week, to be precise – the Chilcot Report will be released, setting off a fresh bout of internecine warfare within the party.
14. On top of all that, there may or may not be a UK general election in October, which Labour would either have to fight in the middle of an insanely bitter leadership contest or in the middle of an explosive split, and in either event with a leader that roughly half of the party’s MPs and members would consider an incompetent imbecile, a backstabbing traitor, or both.
(Our money would normally be against a general election, but the Tories may not be able to resist the chance to have one in those circumstances, confident that they’d not only win a personal mandate for the new PM but greatly increase their majority.)
So there you go, Scotland. If you want to stay in the UK, it’s looking like the Tories with Boris Johnson or Theresa May as Prime Minister, and the country out of Europe, for however many decades it takes for Labour to put itself back together again.
If only there was some other choice, eh?