Sadly, civil war within the Labour Party continues. As we hack through the thickets of legal challenges, NEC elections and rival claims to both the body and soul of the Party, it seems likely that Jeremy Corbyn will be re-elected as Party Leader. If this happens, the choices faced by both Labour MPs and supporters generally become ever more stark.
It is all too evident that Corbynistas are much more interested in political purity than they are in electoral success and forming a government. Even they, therefore, recognise that a Corbyn led party, even assuming that it does not split, is likely to produce a disastrous electoral result in 2020.. How many seats would be lost? It is very hard to predict three years in advance but those more in the know than I am suggest that it might be as many as 100, reducing the number of Labour MPs to perhaps 130.
This may not, however, be the worst scenario. If, as a result of Jeremy Corbyn being re-elected, Labour fragments into a Socialist Party on the one hand and a Social Democratic Party on the other, the left of centre vote would inevitably split. With our current first-past- the-post system in place, the number of seats the left would then lose would be even greater. Some of the gains would go to the Lib Dems, the Greens and perhaps a revived UKIP, but the largest winners would almost certainly be the Conservatives.
Not only would this be an electoral disaster from a left of centre perspective, but it would also produce huge problems for the left in organisational terms. Who would inherit the Labour name and brand? What would happen to all the Party’s assets - and liabilities? What about the constituency organisation? And who would fund two warring parties, neither or which looked remotely likely to form an effective opposition, let alone a government?
Pity, therefore, the dilemma faced by the large majority of Labour MPs this summer. Leaving aside the next general election, many are facing difficult reselection challenges, as a result of boundary redistribution and the opportunity that this provides Momentum to deselect those who are not in the Corbyn camp. This is pulling the whole Party towards a more extreme left stance which only a small majority of Labour MPs really support.
At best, therefore, they are going to have to campaign within a still nominally united party, for policies in which they don’t believe - and which the vast majority of the electorate don’t support either. At worst, the Party splits and the number of seats lost is even greater.
So what can be done? I am just a by-stander, albeit one who has been in the Labour Party for more than 50 years and who has seen it go through bad times as well as good. Nevertheless, this gives me - not because I have been a donor (although I am and I am happy to continue to be while the Party battles through its current difficulties) - but because I am a very loyal member and continuing supporter, a certain status. I think there is only one option with any real hope behind it for those many Labour MPs who are agonising this summer about what to do. You have to stick it out. You have to campaign for the policies in which you really believe rather than trimming to the left to try to win votes from people who will always doubt your motives. You have to keep the Party together, rather than allowing it to split, so that there is an election vehicle still intact for the future. You have to develop policies which will lead to Labour recapturing the middle ground. In the meantime, you have to fight off challengers at selection meetings as best you can by organising your support.
Is agonising over all these problems and options the way that most Labour MPs wanted to spend their summer vacations? I am sure it is not. But a huge amount is going to depend now on their resilience and loyalty, and their capacity to look beyond the immediate future to where a revived Party might be in a few years’ time. The alternative is for there to be a Conservative government for as far ahead as anyone can see.