Leaders: A Corbyn victory will signal ‘interesting times’

The Labour Party holds its breath today – some in anticipation of what they believe to be a welcome return to its roots, others in fear of the end of the party’s hopes of ever returning to government.

Signs supporting Jeremy Corbyn. The result of the Labour leadership contest is due to be announced today.  Picture: Getty
Signs supporting Jeremy Corbyn. The result of the Labour leadership contest is due to be announced today.  Picture: Getty
Signs supporting Jeremy Corbyn. The result of the Labour leadership contest is due to be announced today. Picture: Getty

What we will witness is a defining moment in the party’s history, whatever the outcome. If Jeremy Corbyn wins, stand back and watch the sparks fly – and that’s just the internal strife.

If he is pipped at the post – or suffers a more surprising emphatic defeat – it probably marks the end of the challenge from the “old” left.

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It would also confirm that whatever their failings, the Blairites represent Labour’s future as well as its immediate past.

There have been dire warnings about what will happen if Mr Corbyn wins, from both leadership rivals and others within the party. Madness, say wise old heads.

They might be right. Many of them know from bitter experience that getting an electable leader is the be-all and end-all in politics.

But, if can leave aside the doubts over the ballot procedure, the party leader must be the person for whom members - whether full members or registered supporters - have voted.

If the Labour Party membership is now comprised of enough people who want Mr Corbyn to be leader, then Tony Blair and co can squeal all they like, but their party has spoken.

If Mr Corbyn wins, their dire warnings will have not been enough to put people off the left winger.

And if they want to depose him, they are going to have to try harder next time and provide a more convincing alternative for the rank and file.

Labour got it wrong last time with Ed Miliband.

But although he had his (dumfounded) critics from the moment he was elected, it took a general election failure before everyone was agreed that he had been a bad choice.

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So if Mr Corbyn wins, many in the Labour Party are likely to continue to believe he is the right man for the job until the electorate tells them otherwise in a few years’ time.

Members will have made their bed and will have lie in it – for at least another five years of opposition.

On the face of it, Mr Corbyn may not look like prime ministerial material, but the next election is still a long way off.

What will the interim hold? Could his elevation to leader trigger an internal war that would make the feud between Tony Blair and Gordon Brown seem like a playground squabble in comparison?

Might that lead to panicking opponents attempting a coup to topple Mr Corbyn, in a desperate ploy to put Labour in “better” shape for 2020?

Or will history repeat itself and those on the right quit to form a new party like the SDP in 1981? This could run and run.

Theft diminishes life’s rich tapestry

Part of the Great Tapestry of Scotland has been stolen from Kirkcaldy Galleries.

Like every theft, this is wrong on many levels, but it is sad that such a work of celebration has been spoiled in this way.

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The 160-panel tapestry has been a big hit on its tour of the country, and as James Naughtie pointed out in these pages on Thursday, it brought together people at a time of division during and after the independence referendum.

This week, we have heard much anticipation about its eventual arrival at Tweedbank, at the end of the newly re-opened Borders Railway. A purpose-built centre close to the station is planned to house the vast art work, which has already been viewed by more than 50,000 people.

That will be an important additional lure for tourists to the line when the terminus is currently little more than a car park and a bus stop to attractions elsewhere in the Borders.

It has got people talking about taking the train line, an extra – and attractive – reason to make the trip. Good all round.

The clue here is in the name – Great Tapestry. But not so great if it is diminished when a piece goes missing.

And what is anyone going to do with a small segment of it? It would look kind of conspicuous hanging on the living room wall and clearly hot property if it was to be offered for sale.

There’s also the human element. This is not the work of a single artist, but the creation of more than 1,000 volunteers, who took three years and 80,000 hours to complete it. They will no doubt be dismayed if not angered by the theft.

Let’s hope the missing section turns up safe and sound, and as soon as possible.