As a Liberal Democrat it’s tempting to grab a big bowl of popcorn over the Labour Party’s meltdown on the prospect of Jeremy Corbyn winning the leadership ballot. The latest episode is the rejection of many new members who “don’t uphold the values of the party”. While some of those are people who publicly supported other parties in the General Election, and we don’t really know the scale, in the event of a close result it’s going to undermine the legitimacy of whoever wins.
Although conventional wisdom is that a Corbyn-led Labour Party will be unelectable, we have no idea what likely to happen if he wins. The truth is that Labour is a hollowed-out shell of a party which no longer knows what it actually supposed to stand for, merely satisfied to triangulate in pursuit of power and let the Tories set the political agenda. That’s why they lost the election.
My guess is that a critical mass of Labour members have concluded that none of the other three candidates look remotely like election winners either, so they’ve put their faith in someone who, even if they can’t win, will at least widen the Overton Window in favour of things that won’t emerge from Tory-leaning think-tanks. A serious challenge to the austerity narrative would be a good start.
We can’t assume that Jeremy Corbyn intends to lead the party into the next general election. He does have far too much negative baggage, especially his links with anti-Semitic Islamists and his support for the IRA rather than the constitutional nationalists during the Northern Ireland troubles, and this will count against his party in the ballot box. But perhaps the plan is to spend two or three years revitalising the grassroots and changing the national conversation before stepping down in favour of someone else?
Liberal Democrat blogger Jonathan Calder is predicting a Corbyn victory will be bad for the Liberal Democrats. But I’m not so sure. The truth is we really don’t know what will happen. And if there’s another economic crash, all bets are off.