It is hard not to hear Tom Watson’s cries of a secret plan to seize control of the Labour party, and not have the feeling that history is repeating itself, with the party once again spiralling into factionalism.
Back in the 1980s, one of the biggest political issues – and the source of much disunity for the Labour party – was the emergence of Militant, which critics called a party within the party, which sought to put its members in influential positions within Labour to better further their far-left cause.
It ended in acrimony and expulsions from the party. The party survived, but its energies were focussed on itself and not on creating policies that would solve the many social problems in the UK and see it elected.
This time round there are some differences, Momentum is an external organisation set up by members of the party who support Jeremy Corbyn and who think that the party members should have a greater say in the direction of the party and curb the say that its elected representatives have, But on its web site there are prominent encouragements to join both it and the Labour Party.
But if it is seeking to woo away the Unite union’s cash then there is indeed a serious battle in the offing. The union is the greatest funder of the Labour party, and an election is under way for general secretary, widely seen as a proxy contest for control of the Labour party.
Momentum’s Jon Lansman was reportedly taped saying that if Len McCluskey was re-elected as Unite general secretary, the union would affiliate to his group rather than just to Labour. Mr Watson claimed the Labour leadership, ie his boss Jeremy Corbyn, was tacitly appro ving the organising of a faction within the party by the party’s biggest funder. It shows just how badly split the party is, and there is little sign of sense being seen and compromises being made.
So at a time of the greatest political upheaval the UK has seen for decades, the only party capable of being an effective opposition to the Tories at Westminster is once again so involved in in-fighting it cannot spare the energy to make itself effective. This complete lack of political ability has made the Tories realise they have the stage to themselves and can just about do as they please. So the UK is being let down and the Tories are set to stay in power for a considerable period, not through their abilities and policies but because Labour will not unite and fight.
And the Labour party’s complete collapse in Scotland, through terminal complacency and navel-gazing, has left the SNP in Scotland in a similar position to the Tories in England, albeit relying on the support of the Greens in parliament. And of course a bold Tory government in London simply plays in to the hands of the SNP in Scotland in highlighting division, so the SNP ends up getting a double bonus out of Labour’s self-inflicted troubles.
The Labour party has to realise that it is letting the country down if it allows itself to concentrate on internecine warfare instead of putting aside differences and providing the real political focus that is desperately needed.