“If he doesn’t make a stand we will have left no mark in history at all.”
Those words, from a Corbyn ally at the top of the Labour Party tell you a lot about how the party leadership expects this election to go and the internal bloodbath Labour could be gearing up for on the other side of June 8th.
In a report on Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership on tonight’s Channel 4 News, the longstanding Campaign Group MP and Corbyn supporter Ronnie Campbell tells us he is convinced that defeat would bring the Party’s Right back, eager not just to diminish the Left but to eject them altogether, banish them from the Party they had the effrontery to win.
At the heart of Jeremy Corbyn’s project is a route not taken by the Left in some other European countries. In Greece and Portugal, for instance, the main social democratic parties were deemed too corrupt and lost to compromise to be worth a takeover. New parties were started instead.
Some around the Corbyn leadership have in the no so distant past been party to conversations about a completely new entity of the Left. But the 2015 leadership contest and Mr Corbyn’s surprise victory closed down such chat. They now hope they have their vehicle for change: the Labour Party. But central to that project is keeping Jeremy Corbyn in post after the election if Labour is defeated. Some around him have said Jeremy Corbyn should invite challengers after a defeat – dare them to take on the darling of the grassroots and get a taste of the bitter medicine handed out to Owen Smith in his 2016 leadership attempt. Some have talked of Mr Corbyn committing to a caretaker leadership, a promise to stay on for a year or so, in which time the Left would hope to have established a sympathetic and plausible succession candidate.
On the Right, there is (on the whole) a silent, seething anger and a determination to remove Jeremy Corbyn as soon as possible after the election. The Left mutter that would mean Tom Watson, Deputy Leader, moving into the top job at a critical period which could set back their project. Mr Watson knows his way around the Labour Party’s machinery and trade union allies. He might have fewer allies than he used to but he is feared. Even Monsieur Zen himself, Jeremy Corbyn, can be heard lapsing into snippy language when he talks about him.