If Labour’s elite and members are so far apart, party should split

News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial

The crisis in the Labour Party deepened yesterday in the aftermath of the victory in the Oldham West by-election.

Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership is widely disliked among Labour MPs, who foresee electoral collapse at the next general election if he remains at the helm.

He has been the target of calculated snubs and humiliation, as his own backbenchers and even members of his shadow cabinet team contradict him on policy or isolate him in the House of Commons chamber.

Their frustration is understandable, given Mr Corbyn’s uncompromising repudiation of the political mainstream. But many of those same MPs are squarely to blame for their predicament – many of them endorsed Mr Corbyn’s bid to be a contender, and thus ensured his election by the grassroots.

Mr Corbyn’s rejection of the Syria military action is in fact one of the more reasonable stances he has taken. This newspaper, like most unionists, believes it is impossible to avoid some sort of intervention following the Paris massacres.

But a range of people across the political spectrum, including some military experts, have opposed intervention in this case. It is now clear that the 2003 Iraq and the 2011 Libya actions made matters worse. Many civilians who live in poor countries are now dead as a result of those miscalculations.

But Mr Corbyn, if he is a pacifist, is one who has shown tolerance to all sorts of violent groups, including IRA killers.

The fact is however, Mr Corbyn won overwhelming support. If Labour MPs and their members are now so far apart in outlook, then logically the party should split. It would not be absurd if Britain had four main parties – a hard left party (of people who agree with Mr Corbyn), a centre left party (of centrist Labour and Liberals), a centre right party (mainstream Tories), and a hard right party (hardline Tories/ Ukip).

Our current electoral system is not suited to such an arrangement, but after the Oldham result it seems an increasingly appropriate realignment.