Just over a year ago, I said the Britain we thought we knew did not exist. There is no progressive majority, England really isn’t bothered about Scotland, nor it is bothered about Labour, and the distance between our political class and the working-class is dividing our country.
The response of the Labour membership was to elect Jeremy Corbyn, a pacifist vegetarian from Islington, with an overwhelming mandate.
Material conditions have changed enough for the Parliamentary Labour Party to ignore its membership. Firstly, it is becoming increasingly apparent from doorstep conversations in Labour areas that a Conservative party led by Boris Johnson on a tough Brexit platform would pose major problems for the party in its Northern heartlands.
Secondly, private internal polling conducted by the Labour party is showing as few at 7 in 10 voters who supported Ed Miliband in the 2015 general election would vote for Jeremy Corbyn. This spells electoral annihilation for Labour.
"Material conditions have changed enough for the Parliamentary Labour Party to ignore its membership"
Thirty-five Labour MPs have a majority of 3,000 or less; 60 Labour MPs have a majority of 5,000 or less. All those seats would be lost by Labour, if just half of those who, according to polls, have abandoned Labour since Corbyn became leader, carry out their threat. If Corbyn continues as leader, he could lead Labour to its worst result since the 1921 general election.
Alongside the awakening of the PLP is the realisation from institutions crucial to Corbyn’s leadership that the challenge has changed.
The unions are spooked. Corbyn no longer has four years to embed himself and create a viable vision of him as Prime Minister.
After the EU referendum result on Thursday, the political landscape has changed. Labour risk entering a fraught election where Europe plays a looming role in, potentially, just over 6 months. The union’s biggest fear is a second Tory majority with a clear mandate for the UK to leave the Single Market and for protections for workers to be torn up.
"In decades to come Cameron’s premiership could seem a golden age for workers"
If you want to see what Conservative thinking is on Britain outside the EU, Open Europe’s excellent paper is a good start. The UK works economically outside Europe if it becomes Singapore. The realisation that David Cameron’s premiership may seem a golden age for workers in decades to come is dawning on a left that has lost nearly every battle it has fought since 2005.
The PLP has two routes to get rid of Corbyn. It can trigger a vote of no confidence, and if Corbyn refuses to resign, ensure he is not on the ballot of members. After the NEC elections this summer, it becomes far easier to do this. With the Corbyn camp disorganised, it has failed to secure even a route to a majority on Labour’s National Executive Committee. The NEC can raise the number of nominations required to secure a place on the ballot of members, and drop the £3 membership scheme. Yet, this will have to wait until after the elections are concluded. The party may not have time.
An alternative route is for MPs to walk away from Corbyn and form a grouping in Parliament that is officially designated as the opposition. It is hard to see how the Labour Party’s NEC would want to remain behind a Corbyn group in parliament of fewer than 20 MPs, almost no support at local government level (which remains resilient to Corbynism), little MEP support, moderate support among the affiliated organisations and an increasingly sceptical union movement. The current membership of the Labour party are about to get a hard lesson in how parliamentary democracy works.
"Labour MPs could walk away from Corbyn and form a grouping in Parliament that is officially designated as the opposition"
Key to any Labour renaissance is Tom Watson. The Deputy Leader has a clear mandate (he gained the votes of 90,000 members, Corbyn got 121,000). Watson can give the unions comfort that the post-Corbyn party will not shift significantly to the right, and his relationship with Len McCluskey, head of the UNITE union is key to this. Watson can also carry the vast majority of the Labour’s councillors, CLP chairs and activists who have lost faith in the Corbyn project. Watson will need to personally crown the next leader. His importance in the future of British politics cannot be overstated.
This is not Blairite dreaming. Conversations I’ve had for the past three months with longstanding and senior Labour left activists revealed that they cannot wait for Corbyn to go. They just cannot be seen to hold the knife.
"Tom Watson's importance in the future of British politics cannot be overstated"
Yes, the Labour party has changed radically since 2010. But so has the UK in just the last year, indeed, the last week. Labour needs a leadership election based on two questions: who is the best leader to negotiate a British exit from the EU that protects our access to this market and workers’ rights; and who can beat a divided Conservative party led by Boris Johnson?
There is light at the end of the tunnel for the Labour party, and this is why Jeremy Corbyn will go.