Janan Ganesh, leading political commentator, believes that a Labour party split could win over dispossessed Remainers despite its risks. Citing the Limehouse declaration of 1981 – where a split in the Labour party ultimately served to fragment the anti-Thatcher vote – Janan suggests that the party’s “current commitment to togetherness would make sense” if it weren’t for the fact that there remains no solution in sight “to the Corbyn problem”.
If Labour do fail to replace Corbyn with a “plausible prime minister” Janan writes, then “political logic and the national interest both argue for a breakaway”. One way that this might unfold is that the 170 or so MPs who rejected Mr Corybn last week in a vote of no confidence would “resign the Labour whip and sit as a new party of the pro-European centre left under leadership of their choosing”. By definition, they would now constitute the new official opposition as the largest non-governmental group in the House of Commons.
If this new party were able to persuade just one out of every hundred of the 16 million voters who voted to remain in the EU to pay a nominal subscription, it would outnumber the Tories. Janan believes this could lead to moderate Labour activists and staff defecting, followed by donations from British businesses “who would have an incentive to sustain the project in its precarious infancy”. While the hard left would keep the Labour name and the infrastructure, the new party would rely on something more important – credible policies which appealed to the centre left.
The fallout of Limehouse is preventing Labour moderates from such a move. However, Janan argues that if they are to be suppressed by history, then “they should get their history right”. In the end the SDP won – the past four prime ministers have all “attempted to blend a free economy, a substantial state, cultural looseness and EU membership”. The SDP leaders, sensed where the country was going, just too early. June’s referendum has broken this consensus, but 48% of voters are still crying out to be spoken for.
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