The strange death of Labour England

After just over 100 years, the stage might be set for the final eclipse of the Labour Party.  It could easily happen that Labour will lose heavily in the coming election, not least because of the leadership, or lack of it, of Jeremy Corbyn.  

From their current 229 seats, Labour could be down to 180 or even fewer, depending how well the polling data represents real voting intention.  Normally a party leader would resign after so catastrophic defeat, but Jeremy Corbyn is no normal leader.  If he chooses to stay on, he might be challenged for leader.  If so, he would be on the ballot as the incumbent, and would probably gain enough Momentum votes to remain leader.

At this point, since he refused to leave the party, it might well leave him.  140 Labour MPs might decide to form a separate party, perhaps called “Centre Left Labour” or something similar. Anything that included the word “Labour” might be subject to legal challenge, though.

This party would be the main opposition party.  Its leader would be Leader of the Opposition and would receive the salary and status that goes with it, plus the office space and the financial support.  He or she would face the Prime Minister at PMQs, and would receive the media attention merited by the opposition.

Jeremy Corbyn’s rump of maybe 40 MPs would be consigned to back bench obscurity, not even the third largest party, which would be the SNP.  People would draw comparisons to the Social Democratic rebellion from Labour in the 1980s, but the circumstances are vastly different.  They were not the main party of opposition, commanding the finance and attention that accompanies that.  Nor was the official Labour Party as discredited as this one is now.

The new centre left opposition party that inherited Labour’s mantle might take more than one election to become a credible alternative governing party, but the Corbynite rump on the back benches would gradually disappear from the political stage, and after a century of influence, the Labour Party itself would head into history.  It could happen.