Labour is two Parties in one but the voting system stops them from splitting

In countries with more democratic voting systems the problem of the ongoing presence of the Corbynista cohort in Labour would be easy to solve. They’d break away from Starmer’s Labour, form their own Socialist Party and put their policy propositions to the electorate. In a strictly PR system if they got (say) 5% of the votes they’d get 5% of the seats – a respectable 30 or so MPs.

As a once member of the SDP I speak from experience. In the early 1980s the Gang of Four’s Party, in alliance with the Liberals, gained 25.4% of the vote but 4.5% of the seats. It was a scandalous under-representation – something that under First Past The Post (FPTP) has continued for smaller parties ever since.

The Hard Core Socialist position of Corbyn and Long Bailey and co. is a credible and respectable political position but one that Sir Keir has not chosen for Labour which he is remoulding in the Social Democratic tradition of Harold Wilson and Tony Blair. If we had FPTP then Corbyn and Co. could leave and try their luck with the electorate. They might do better than 5% – who knows?

The problem with Broad Church political Parties is that there will always be those who grump and plot in the aisles. That was certainly true of the Conservatives before the 2019 Election. Boris Johnson ruthlessly stopped all that and there seem few if any dissidents on the Tory benches these days. But as with Labour there have traditionally been two broad streams. In Labour it was Socialists versus the Social Democrats. In the Conservatives it was “One Nation” versus the more authoritarian and libertarian Right. The latter group has now taken over under Boris Johnson but there are still One Nation Tories around. To break away and form their own Party under FPTP is doomed – ask Anna Soubry or Sarah Wollaston.

Labour tried painting itself the brightest red under Jeremy Corbyn and the electorate spoke. Sir Keir Starmer is taking the Party in a different direction. Ms Long Bailey and her supporters will no doubt snipe at their party leader from the sidelines – the electoral system gives them little choice. But as with the SDP in 1980 they should really be in a different Party.

2 thoughts on “Labour is two Parties in one but the voting system stops them from splitting

  1. The Labour Party has traditionally shot itself in the foot. The fact that it survives to this day if not exactly thriving is probably due more to the weakness of other opposition groups than a coherent individual identity.
    Labour originally managed to gain power in another age when it identified as the party of the traditional working class. British society has changed the working class may still exist in a different guise but has different aspirations and aims. Tony Blair recognised that and whatever the shortcomings of New Labour, Blair resonated with the electorate in a way no other Labour leader before or since has done. The hard left was still around in Blairs time but their influence was weakened by Labour policies the electorate actually supported.
    Corbyn was completely clueless in understanding what the aspirations of working people actually were. His tolerance of the antisemitic core of hard-left destroyed any credibility he may have had with moderate voters.
    If Labour is ever to gain power once more the Party needs root and branch reform with zero tolerance of any whiff of antisemitic views. It should re-brand itself as the Re-join Europe Party. Campaign vigorously to achieve that in a new referendum. I believe that would unite Labour in Scotland and weaken the Nationalist vote as well as unifying the substantial remain sentiment that is very strong in many Conservative marginal constituencies.
    Supporting Britain in Europe is a path back to power. Ducking it in the Corbynist fashion will lead to the same result, electoral defeat .

    Liked by 1 person

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