Theresa May seems to have sorted it for the Conservative Party. She’s the best outcome for them, and a potential winner, I predict, so long as she can keep her Brexit wolves at bay. Some of those are already growling behind the lines, but they would be stupid to try to bring her down – yet. In the meantime May is in the process of stealing all Labour’s best lines (see my last post but one), so queering the latter’s pitch. And Labour – not being as clever as the Tories at this kind of thing – are tearing themselves apart over their leadership; making them unelectable in the short term, whoever’s fault we think that is.
Luckily, however, the Left has longer than the ‘short term’ to get its house in order. That’s the only comfort I can draw from May’s pronouncements yesterday: that she isn’t inclined to call an early election. That gives Labour a possible four years to sort itself out. And if a week – or even a day, as we saw yesterday – is a ‘long time in politics’, just think what we could do with 200 weeks!
When Corbyn was elected Labour leader last year I always saw the possibility of his being a temporary appointment, but a strong and reforming one, to make the party more democratic, kinder, more honest and less austerian than it had become under Blair. I also hoped that the electorate’s experience of this, with just a little bit of favourable media coverage, might persuade the electorate, too, that this ‘new’ kind of politics had a lot to be said for it. In other words, he could shift the ‘political discourse’. Then might be the time to hand the tiller over to someone with a more conventionally impressive leadership ‘style’, but still preserving Corbyn’s reforms, in time for the next election.
But it was clear to me then that this would require time. The threat of a ‘snap’ election that was opened up by the Referendum result seemed to put paid to that. Lots of people were saying that Cameron’s successor would need a direct electoral mandate. That may be one of the reasons for this sudden rush on the Labour benches to get rid of Corbyn straightaway, on the grounds that there was no time to be lost. Now, if May keeps her word, or is able to (you never know, her enemies in the Tory party might see Labour’s present troubles as the perfect opportunity to trigger another vote soon), Labour has been given a breathing spell.
They should use it. Changing a political climate takes time. Call the dogs off Corbyn, especially as there’s no credible alternative to him in the offing just now, certainly not Angela Eagle; let him stay and his reforms bed in; until a more generally acceptable Left-wing saviour can be found to take over. By that time several relatively junior MPs – including my own, Diana Johnson – could have grown into the role. Right now I’d go for Hilary Benn: I know he has some baggage, including warmongering over Syria and plotting against Corbyn; but he’s an intelligent guy and must have some of his Dad’s DNA still in him.
I suppose there’s no hope of finding Barbara Castle still alive somewhere? My greatest political disappointment was that she didn’t become our first woman prime minister, rather than the Witch of Grantham. What a difference that would have made!