Mandelson: Corbyn opponents ‘in for a long haul’

Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn. Picture: Getty
Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn. Picture: Getty
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PETER Mandelson has advised Jeremy Corbyn’s critics within the Labour Party not to press ahead with an attempt to have replaced until the general public have formed a negative opinion of him.

The peer, who was a key Blairite figure, was dismissive of Mr Corbyn describing him as a “loser” but warned internal opponents of the Labour leader that they were “in for a long haul” arguing that nothing could be done to get rid of the left-winger until he had proved himself unpopular with voters.

Lord Mandelson described Jeremy Corbyn as a 'loser'. Picture: Getty

Lord Mandelson described Jeremy Corbyn as a 'loser'. Picture: Getty

The former minister and architect of New Labour issued his warning, which also predicted internal strife as the moderates clash with the left, in a private paper circulated to political allies ahead of the party conference in Brighton next week.

While admitting that Mr Corbyn would remain in charge of the party for some time, the paper said that moderates in the party’s grassroots had to be given hope that there was a “way out of our predicament and that Labour does have a future”.

In the paper, Lord Mandelson wrote: “In choosing Corbyn instead of Ed Miliband, the general public now feel we are just putting two fingers up to them, exchanging one loser for an even worse one. We cannot be elected with Corbyn as leader. Nobody will replace him until he demonstrates to the party his unelectability at the polls. In this sense, the public will decide Labour’s future and it would be wrong to try and force this issue from within before the public have moved to a clear verdict.”

Lord Mandelson’s paper gave an insight into the difficult dilemma facing Labour. Mr Corbyn won the leadership contest with an unprecedented mandate boosted by a surge of enthusiasm for his radical politics. Yet there is a recognition both within Blairite Labour and beyond the party that his politics make it extremely unlikely that he can lead Labour to victory in a general election.

Lord Mandelson said he feared that the party’s lurch to the left under Mr Corbyn would result in Blairite moderates leaving – a factor that could have a disastrous effect on Labour. Perhaps anticipating a “gang of four” moment that saw creation of the SDP during Labour’s last flirtation with the hard left, Lord Mandelson said he did not think that defecting was the answer.

“We need to acknowledge that those who supported him have invested a lot personally for Corbyn, we are not going to convince them overnight they were wrong and before then they will provide an army to draw on as they become absorbed into constituency parties.

“We are in for a long haul during which the atmosphere in the party will become increasingly acrimonious at branch and constituency levels.”

According to Lord Mandelson’s analysis, there was the will from “mainstream” party members that “we’ll come back when the party gets its act together and is serious again”.

He argued those within the mainstream needed the chance to come together to come together. “Without this, the party in the country will slowly disintegrate as mainstream people withdraw from elected and local council office. We have to give them hope that there is a way out of our predicament and that Labour does have a future.”

He also delivered a withering verdict on the party under Ed Miliband saying that over the last few years “intellectual sterility has left Labour floundering before an electorate that wanted to vote against the Tories but did not feel they were being offered a workable alternative.”

Lord Mandelson previously voiced concerns about Mr Corbyn’s potential impact on the party before the Islington North MP swept to victory after attracting a massive 59.5 per cent of votes.