Euan McColm: Labour’s fantasy politics lead to Neverland

Shadow defence minister 
Clive Lewis, who won his Norwich South seat from the Lib Dems last year. Photograph: Rob Stothard/Getty

Shadow defence minister Clive Lewis, who won his Norwich South seat from the Lib Dems last year. Photograph: Rob Stothard/Getty

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It’s the implicit concession of defeat that strikes you. That and the complete detachment from reality.

As the Labour Party, under the disastrous leadership of Jeremy Corbyn, continues its hold-on-to-your-hats race towards oblivion, one of his trusted lieutenants has called for the agreement of electoral pacts with opposing parties in order to end the Conservatives’ reign.

Shadow defence minister Clive Lewis believes Prime Minister Theresa May can be brought down if only Labour can form a “progressive alliance” with the Greens, the SNP, and the Liberal Democrats. His proposal – which we might charitably describe as cockamamie – would see these parties agree to get behind whichever candidate has the best chance of defeating the Tories in key constituencies.

Lewis – who would be languishing in deserved backbench obscurity if it wasn’t for the Leader of the Opposition’s failure to persuade any credible Labour MPs to serve on his team – wishes “to be in government” with Green MP Caroline Lucas, not to oppose her.

Not so very long ago, the Labour Party was considered a credible contender to win general elections outright. Now, as Lewis’s proposal illustrates, even its senior figures don’t reckon that’s possible.

Having inflicted huge damage on Labour, the members of the Corbyn fan club have to come up with new and innovative ways of trying to achieve what should come naturally to a serious mainstream party.

One wonders what benefit Lewis sees spiralling out of electoral pacts between Labour and other parties. The SNP, he might have noticed, currently holds 56 of Scotland’s 59 Westminster constituencies. Labour holds one. What deal might Labour strike with the Scottish nationalists?

The SNP is doing just fine, right now. Doubtless the nationalists would be perfectly happy for Labour to step aside in all of the constituencies it currently holds but the prospect of the nationalists doing anything to aid the election of a single Labour MP is the stuff of fantasy. The SNP wants to destroy Labour in Scotland, not to work with it. That Lewis doesn’t grasp this evident truth makes one wonder if he’s paid the slightest attention to matters political in Scotland at any point in his life.

But if a pals act with the SNP’s a non-starter, there’s always the Greens…

Perhaps Labour could agree to step back in all of those closely balanced Tory-Green marginals across England. All Lewis has to do is identify them. This will not be easy because there are none.

Members of the Labour Party in Brighton Pavilion – the only Green-held constituency in the UK – may feel that rather than talking about his desire to be in government with Lucas, Lewis should have been talking about his desire for his own party to take the seat. If they do not feel this, then they are as utterly terrible as Lewis at the business of politics.

The former television journalist turned Corbynista, Paul Mason, echoed Lewis’s call, suggesting that deals could also be struck with the Welsh nationalists Plaid Cymru. But, like the SNP, Plaid wants to bury the Labour Party, not bring it back to life.

Of course, both the Scottish and Welsh nationalists have talked about the need for a more “progressive” politics, both have spun the line that they are the new carriers of the traditional Labour torch, but this is cover for their shared objective of breaking up the UK. Labour MPs or supporters who believe beneficial accommodations may be reached with either the SNP or Plaid are fools.

But it’s not just the matter of deep political differences between Labour and the parties that these Corbynistas mistakenly believe to be fellow travellers that would prevent the success of pacts. There is also the small matter of the electorate to consider.

The thing about cult members (and how else might one describe Labour members who believe that Corbyn is on course for election victory despite polls giving the Tories a 12 point lead?) is that they have a tendency to believe others think as they do, and that those who don’t can be converted.

This zeal convinces the likes of Lewis and Mason that voters – voters who have better things to do with their lives than to worry about saving Corbyn’s hide – can be corralled and then deployed to act in concert.

This zeal allows the Corbyn faithful to ignore polling that shows nearly 3 million people who voted Labour in 2015 prefer May as Prime Minister over their own party leader.

This zeal will, in all likelihood, kill the Labour Party.

Attempts to make people vote tactically have failed in the past and they will fail again.

The Labour Party should be making a simple, clear, compelling case for its election as the next government of the UK, not wasting its time playing fantasy politics games, describing unworkable hypotheses, and calling for partnership in government with the eccentrics of the Green Party.

If Corbyn was anything like a credible leader, if he bore the slightest resemblance to a prime minister-in-waiting, then his cronies wouldn’t have to peddle this nonsense about deals with opponents.

Labour in Scotland shows no sign that it has the slightest idea how to go about reversing the SNP’s electoral dominance, while the party in England faces a serious threat – especially in the north-east – from Ukip.

Just as traditional Labour supporters in Scotland who voted Yes in the independence referendum went on to back the SNP, so many of the party’s supporters in England who voted Leave in the EU referendum will now stick with the kippers.

And if the thousands who have deserted Labour for Ukip in Doncaster or Sunderland will not easily be persuaded to come back, the support of a few Greens, even if it can be delivered, won’t even begin to look like compensation.

Clive Lewis and Paul Mason are not on the fringes of Jeremy Corbyn’s party; they are at its heart. And with their help, Labour can look forward to perpetual irrelevance.

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