Labour’s Antisemitism Is Not Welcome In Brighton

In the Spring of 2014, I sat in Committee Room 1 of Brighton Town Hall opposite the organiser of the “March For England”, an EDL-linked event that had previously caused violence in the city. I looked him in the eye and told him that he and his followers were not welcome in Brighton and Hove.

Representatives of the city’s Muslim community had made it clear to me and other councillors that the march would cause fear and distress amongst residents, effectively confining them to their homes for the duration. It went against every policy on equalities the council had, and morally it was right for elected councillors in leadership positions to make a stand. I did.

Three years later I sat in the BBC studios a few hundred metres from the town hall, listening to the recorded testimony of people who had faced abuse inside a council-owned venue because they were identifiably Jewish. I’d heard statements recorded at a meeting saying it was fine to question whether the Holocaust had ever taken place. Representatives of the city’s Jewish community quite rightly and understandably contacted me asking what I, as Leader of the Council, would do.

It was, I believed and I still believe, incumbent on me to again speak out. I wrote to the head of the organisation of the event saying that steps had to be taken to prevent any reoccurrence before the event returned to the city, and I published my letter on my official Facebook page.

That the organisation in question was the Labour Party, which I had been a member of for a quarter of a century and in whose name I was an elected councillor and local authority leader, made no difference.

Perhaps I was naïve but very clear statements by the Labour leadership during the event made me feel that I was joining their effort to counter antisemitism in and around the Party. As an elected Labour politician, speaking out against racism is in my DNA: had I failed to do so in any other circumstance the Party would have rightly condemned my silence.

But condemnation of my stance was immediate and sustained. The charge from members and officers of the local party and Momentum was that I’d always opposed Corbyn, and this was a chance for me to ‘weaponize’ the allegedly ‘fabricated smears’ of antisemitism against him. They claimed I had brought the Party into disrepute insisting I should have raised any concerns “in house”.

I can only imagine the response of my local Party Chair had I, three years earlier, said: “I’ve sent a strongly-worded letter to the National Secretary of the EDL, best leave it to them to sort and not make any fuss in public, eh?”

I’m not comparing Labour to the EDL, though some might argue that with the EHRC investigating institutional antisemitism in Labour the comparison could be a valid one. Only the BNP have faced such an enquiry previously.

They are investigating institutionalised antisemitism and it is true that for speaking out against antisemitism I was penalised. Months of emails, motions and pressure from the local Labour Party followed, demanding apologies, retractions and for me to step down. This is all from the local party where now-suspended members labelled Jews “Zios”, depicted councillors including me and one whose husband is Jewish as dancing Rabbis, and called for people to march on the local synagogue in response to the suspension by Labour of a council candidate for tweeting about the “Israeli bloodline”.

A vote within weeks in my branch calling for me to resign as a result of my stand on antisemitism, passed by some forty votes to two, was moved by the person later suspended after calling for a march on a local synagogue. By February I’d been forced to quit. At the urging of the Jewish Labour Movement I remained a member until Luciana Berger resigned in February.

At a recent fringe event called Stand With Jeremy Corbyn during the TUC Conference in Brighton, many of those suspended and expelled members sat in the front row alongside at least one current senior local Labour councillor. Fringe events at the Labour Conference this week are set to be addressed by suspended or expelled members of the party including Jackie Walker, Ken Livingstone and Chris Williamson.

Since the 2017 Conference there have been ever more revelations about Jeremy Corbyn’s own questionable attitudes towards Jews, including the row over antisemitic mural which led to a demonstration by the Jewish community against Labour, the shameful spectacle of Livingstone and Williamson failing to be suitably punished, the revelations of Leadership interference in antisemitism cases unveiled by Panorama and the resignations of Luciana Berger, Ian Austin and others from the PLP.

Despite the promises of action two years ago, and the small number of suspensions and expulsions, those pushing the same “anti-Israel” messages have not gone away. In the online forums and outrider blogs, lists of hostile Jewish or Jewish friendly “opponents” are still being drawn up. Perhaps the most damning message came when Labour Friends of Israel pulled out of this week’s Conference, saying their staff could no longer be subjected to the antisemitic abuse faced in previous years.

Some of those disciplined have been quietly readmitted, or their suspensions taken no further. Those, like me, who have spoken out on antisemitism, however, have been pushed to the point of resignation, or deselected while the Party has stood by. While the focus remains on Brexit, Labour continues to pursue trigger ballots against MPs, is set to debate changes on antisemitism rules on the Jewish Shabbat when many can’t take part, and to continue efforts to depose Tom Watson as Deputy Leader. Labour Students, long an ally of the Jewish community in Labour, has been “excommunicated” by the Party’s NEC.

It seems clear that for so many people who joined Labour in 2015, the perceived role of Jewish people in the global capitalist economy, and the actions of the Netanyahu government in the occupied territories, are something that every Jewish person is held accountable for. That is racism.   I will continue to speak out against that just as I did when hate crimes spiked in the wake of the Referendum, or when I stood with the Muslim community after the Westminster and Borough Market attacks provoked an Islamophobic backlash.

If a family member speaks and acts in a racist way, do you speak up or keep quiet so as to not rock the boat and end up an outcast? If you are elected to a position of authority, do you put the people you are accountable to ahead of the Party that got you elected? For me the answer was and always will be yes. You don’t get to pick and choose the racism you stand up against; and being a member of a political party gives you a greater responsibility to challenge it, not a free pass to stay silent. In these dangerous times, silence serves no good at all.

Our British Values: a letter to Nigel Farage

Dear Mr Farage,

It looks like we may not get to debate with each other as candidates in the European elections here in the South East, so I just wanted to send you some thoughts I’ve had on our different views about being British and what our shared British values are.

I think British people are some of the most kind, welcoming and hospitable in the world. Britain became great through centuries of people coming here, making it their home and working hard to make it better. Your rhetoric really doesn’t reflect those values; at times you seem to be openly hostile to people coming here. That’s surely not the decent and fair approach most Britons would have. Most British people value getting on with their neighbours, yet you seem to want to promote argument and division more than over-the-fence friendship.

We are much the same age, and our grandfathers generations fought against fascism to protect our British values of freedom, democracy and the rule of law. So many of today’s leaders around the world don’t share those values, yet you seem to be happy to associate with them – Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, Victor Orban and Matteo Salvini to name a few. Why is that?

In that war Britain didn’t stand alone, we forged alliances with other nations, and fought alongside people from across what is now the Commonwealth, people from Poland and France and across occupied Europe. The EU, alongside NATO, has preserved peace for an unprecedented seventy years in Europe, don’t you think we owe future generations the same thing?

Mr Farage the British are sticklers for accuracy, clarity and fairness. We all like to know the details of what we are getting, and make sure we aren’t on the wrong end of a deal. You famously said that a 48-52 result would be “unfinished business by a long way”, yet now you oppose the British people having their fair say on the actual Brexit deal being proposed. Do you not trust the British people to make an informed decision?

I believe British people value a good days pay for a hard days work. You have been an MEP for twenty years now and have very little to show for it. In fact you have one of the worst records for attending your place of work and doing the tasks expected, like voting. Most British people would think it isn’t fair for you to keep that job if you consistently fail to do it. If elected I’d do the job I was paid for, and I believe most people whether Leavers or Remainers would think that’s the right thing to do. Don’t you?

We seem to agree on one thing, agreement is a very British thing in my view, and that is that our politics is broken. We and our respective political parties, Brexit in your case and Change UK in mine, have very different views on the solutions though. One is to make Britain closed off from the world, to run away from the global challenges we face and hide behind a nostalgia that is as appealing as it is false.

Mine is a more open, positive and realistic view of the world, where Britain leads and has its voice heard in the great international issues of our time, like climate change. Britain isn’t great if it has no influence abroad, wouldn’t you agree?

We are both patriots but I fear we have very different views of what that means. I’m proud to be from Sussex, proud to be English and British, and I’m a proud European too. My patriotism is inclusive of anyone who wants to make this country their home, accepting its rights and responsibilities as much as anyone born here does.

I look out of my window across the Channel to Europe, somewhere I can live and work and retire to if I want to and am able to, something my grandparents could never have imagined, and something future generations should have the right to do as well. I don’t understand why you want to take that right away from young people now and in the future.

Our young people are taught that British values are democracy, individual liberty, the rule of law, mutual respect, and tolerance of those with different faiths or beliefs. Because of the things you have said, and those you associate with, I fear for those values if you and your party succeed.

It causes me pain and anguish to think what will happen to this great country if your vision for it becomes a reality. We will be poorer, more insular, more vulnerable to global crises, less secure, more fearful and xenophobic, less happy. You might dismiss that, but I’d rather be better safe than sorry by staying in the EU. How British is that?

My vision, and that of Change UK, is one of a positive future where opportunity is opened up not closed off, where decent journalists and independent courts keep us all in check and protect our rights, where alliances and partnerships, strength in our diversity as people but strength too in values we have stood and fought for over generations, mean we are safer and more secure than if we retreat into isolation. It’s a view Mr Churchill, that greatest of all Britons, seemed to have after he led us during the war, and I think we should respect that.

I know we Brits don’t like to make a fuss but I’m sorry, I’m not going to take this lying down. I’m tired of hearing people say “someone should do something”. Well we in Change UK are. We’re saying, “hang on, this isn’t right.” We won’t be bullied any more, we are standing up for real British values.

Yours in the most respectful British disagreement,

Warren Morgan

Change UK candidate for the European Elections, South East England.

Independent thinking

I have been a member of the Labour Party for 27 years, and would have much preferred to have stayed a member for the foreseeable future. I’d like to be, at this moment, a member of a Labour Party heading for victory locally and nationally. Leaving it, as I have done, feels like leaving a family. Yet for too long I haven’t felt welcome, have found the atmosphere hostile, and the decisions taken hard to live with. I will always have friends in the family, but it feels like the family has grown apart.

Clearly, I am not alone. MPs, fellow councillors, other Party members and, if the polls are right, a significant number of voters feel the same. What do we do? Should we remain politically voiceless and homeless? Should we join the Lib Dems, Greens or Renew? Will Labour ever return to sense and electability? How do we best prevent a slide to a Boris Johnson-led and increasingly right wing Conservative Government without supporting a Corbyn-led Labour Party with all it entails?

A dozen MPs in the Commons have taken the brave – or traitorous/foolhardy depending on your view – step of leaving their Party and joining The Independent Group. It isn’t yet a political party, has no headquarters and staff, no leader or “big beasts”, few policy positions and, as Jonathan Freedland says, a whole list of reasons why the odds are stacked against it’s survival.

In the less-than-a-week since it was set up, there have been a hundred hot takes published on why, like the SDP before it, this new enterprise will surely fail, broken by the mould of first past the post, tribal loyalties, the trades unions, Brexit supporting Midlands towns and much else besides.

The Independent Group is a blank sheet of paper, to be written on by those who join it. It will have contradictions and difficulties, not least of which is what unites it after Brexit either happens or is blocked in another referendum. It isnt the SDP reincarnate, not least because both the Conservatives and Labour have each fallen under the control of their extremes, the grip of traditional media has been loosened by the freedom of social media, and tribal loyalties are far weaker than thirty years ago.

Even then, the emergent alternative to Labour and the Tories commanded, for a period before the shock of war in the South Atlantic, a fifty per cent share of support in the polls. Then as now, there is an appetite, or at least a space, for a new party. There’s a vacuum in politics that needs to be filled, somehow.

Much has and will be written about the social and economic stance of whatever emerges, and whether it will be the right mix to fill that space. Comparisons will be drawn with parties past and present, in the UK and elsewhere. For a lot of voters though, that isnt going to matter too much. They will decide if it is something that isn’t threatening, is something they can live with or maybe invest a bit of hope in at a time of national crisis where leadership is unprecedentedly poor. It will be heart as much as head, negative as much as positive. Voters will coalesce around something that seems competent and secure. The shouting of the ERG Brexit fanatics and Corbyn cultists is appealing to some, a huge turn-off to many whose first concern is, “will this be good or bad for my family and community?

The lesson of Trump, Corbyn and Brexit is that hard and fast rules no longer apply, if they ever did. Only a fool would stake their savings on this new group succeeding – or failing. The coming two months will be crucial as events around Brexit unfold, ongoing tensions and splits in Labour play out, and Independent Group grows in numbers or support. May’s locals and any other elections, with or without new party candidates, will have an effect.

This new grouping could go on to hold power in a majority or minority government, or coalition. It could become a smaller presence in the Commons and local government. It could, as the SDP arguably did, have a gravitational pull on both parties back towards that sense and electability that people who see themselves as “centre ground” want from their politicians.

I don’t want to be part of any elections that pit me against former colleagues, and hopefully current friends, who are staying on in Labour. But nor do I want to rule out being able to serve in elected public office again.

For me, if I am no longer welcome in Labour, if Labour’s toxic culture, antisemitism and Brexit position mean I can’t deliver positive change from within it, then I and others will have to find another way. So for now, I’m backing the Independent Group. If I can help shape it, great. If it provides a political home for voters with nowhere else to go, even better. If it exerts a positive and reforming influence on Labour, fantastic. If Labour fails, it may be the best hope we have.

Opinion Polls: Your Questions Answered

I’m a bit of a poll geek. I quote them a lot. People are often sceptical.

So here are some questions answered and some myths busted.

  1. “They didn’t ask me, or any of the people I know.” There are 60 million of us in the UK, so the chances of being surveyed are pretty low. I’ve been interviewed twice by polling companies in 30 years. Neither time was I asked my voting intention. Most polls are of around one to two thousand people, with as much of a representative sample across age, income group, gender, region and so on as possible.
  2. “That’s a ridiculously small number, no wonder they are wrong.” Polls have a margin of error of plus or minus 3%. Polling more people does not change that margin of error. Some polls do cover up to 20,000 people (a very costly exercise) but are no more representative. Anthony Wells of UK Polling Report explains it better, using a soup analogy from George Gallup, here: http://ukpollingreport.co.uk/faq-sampling
  3. “But the polls have been wrong. Look at some recent elections.” Actually some pollsters have been bang on in recent General Elections, some have been out by around 3% – the margin of error. Polls were out in 1992 and 2015, and each time pollsters have adjusted for specific factors that contributed to that error. For example in 1992 it was found that many people were not keen to admit they voted Tory, so that was subsequently taken into account: http://ukpollingreport.co.uk/faq-dont-knows
  4. “Oh come on, we all know the pollsters are biased, and owned/founded by/run by Tories.” No. Political opinion polling is the most high profile thing pollsters do, but it is only a relatively small part of their business. Most of their work is market research and opinion polling on consumer habits for major companies. If pollsters deliberately got political polling wrong, their main customers would not trust them or pay them to find out where and how to advertise their products. Reputation is the main reason the pollsters have to try their utmost to get it right.
  5. “But that poll last week said something completely different.” Remember the margin of error, plus or minus 3% either way. So if Party X is at 37%, they could be as high as 40% or as low as 34%. And different pollsters have different methods of surveying people, either online, on the phone or sometimes in person, which can produce slightly different results. What you need to do is look at trends over time, and across the nine or ten main pollsters. And look behind the headline voting figures, at how the Leaders and their policies on the economy and other key issues are viewed.
  6. “I did a poll on Twitter/Facebook, and fifteen thousand people voted, and that proves the pollsters are wrong.” The people you are connected to on social media, much like your friends down the pub, are far more likely to share your views than the general population, so it’s not a representative sample. And if anyone can pile in and vote, the results can be skewed massively by a campaign group or political party getting their supporters to vote.

In summary, polls are not perfect, but they are scientifically-conducted representative surveys of the views of the population as a whole. They are the best guide we have. Any one poll is a snapshot in time, a series of polls will show a trend. Events happen and views change.

There’s a similar article from The Independent on polling here, if you don’t believe me: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/opinion-polls-should-we-believe-them-trust-truth-real-fake-news-a7704116.html

Never Again

Today Brighton and Hove City Council votes on adopting the IHRA definition of antisemitism. There will be no debate from the floor. Had members been given the opportunity to speak, this is what I would have said:

Seventy years ago, Anne Frank wrote: “What is done cannot be undone, but one can prevent it from happening again.”
The mission of the International Holocaust Memorial Alliance is to prevent that genocide from happening again; it should be our mission too.

No form of racism is acceptable, can be acceptable. An anti-racist cannot pick and choose what kind of racism they speak out against, or who they hold to account.

Too often in recent times have we heard those tropes, thought consigned to history, voiced again. From Moscow to Washington to Budapest and here. Tropes like “the Jewish lobby control the media, the Jewish financiers run global capitalism, our politicians are in the pay of Israel” and more. And once more the Jewish people are held as scapegoats and a distraction by those who seek to impose their will and influence at home and internationally.

As Leader of this council Madam Mayor I spoke out against racism towards Muslims, towards asylum seekers, towards our BAME communities. A year ago I spoke out against the insidious, racist and anti-Semitic act of Holocaust denial when it took place in this city. I knew, because of the context of where and when those remarks were made, what the likely consequences would be. I’d do it again, without hesitation. I would have no choice.

History teaches us that if we allow the racism, the pernicious evil of antisemitism to pass unchallenged, the Jewish community stands at risk. But they are not alone. All of us are infected by this poison. Our democracy, our humanity and our fundamental values are in danger if we do not stand by them, if we do not speak up.

Now, more than at any time since Anne Frank wrote those words, here and around the world, anti-Semitism is a clear and present danger to the Jewish community and to us all, which is why we must unite today behind this definition, as dozens of other councils have, and send the clearest possible message that we, as the elected representatives of Brighton and Hove, of our city’s Jewish community, stand behind the values and principles we hold to across party divides, principles fundamental to the rights we share.

May the memories of all who were murdered in the Holocaust be a blessing, may their voices speak to us now, saying;
Remember us. Stand together. Say as one, never again. Never again.

Filling the void: is there any room for hope?

Britain’s politics, and not just its political parties, is coming apart. Divides have opened, positions have polarised, gaps have opened up. The consensus underpinning our debate and our institutions is under immense strain. Antisemitism, and the elections to Labour’s ruling National Executive, have brought that into sharp relief.

Neither the Labour Party nor the Conservative Party have any unquestionable, absolute right to exist in their current form and as one half of the political duopoly. That the SDP and the Lib Dems failed to break the hold of these two parties over the last thirty years is no definitive guide to the next thirty years, or indeed the next thirty months.

In late 1981, at a time when party loyalty was far greater than it is now, the SDP commanded the support of between 40 and 50% in polls. The SDP/Liberal Alliance came within 1% of Michael Foot’s Labour at the 1983 General Election. The electoral system prevented an Alliance breakthrough in seats, but Labour itself demonstrated in the 1920s that the duopoly could be challenged, not by adding a third party but by replacing one already there. Ultimately the SDP failed because Labour under Kinnock and his successors moved Labour back to the territory they had ceded almost a decade earlier, and away from the Militant left wing groupings he famously and passionately denounced in Bornemouth.

With current polls showing the Tories on around 40%, Labour a few percent behind, and the Lib Dems in the low teens, a potential new party could in theory shave 10% from the Tories, 10 to 15% from Labour and the majority of Lib Dem support, to put it on around 30%, level pegging with the two established parties. That in itself would probably not be enough to win enough safe Tory or Labour seats to challenge for power at a General Election. It would certainly be enough to secure a parliamentary presence significant enough to be a likely coalition partner.

What may be harder to quantify or predict, but which may be crucial to the success of any potential new party, would be the degree of support from those currently choosing none of the options presently on offer. 36% currently give “don’t know” as their choice for preferred Prime Minister. How many voters are expressing a reluctant choice, hoping for something different? Of course they are unlikely to be a homogenous group looking for the same thing in a political party. We saw that with the appeal of UKIP.

Sceptics of a new party say it is doomed to fail without a distinct and positive offer; I would agree up to a point. However thirty years of knocking on doors has taught me that many voters make a “negative choice”, often placing their cross in the box not because they are devotees of that party’s ideology or platform, but to “keep the other lot out”. The 1987 General Election question posed by the SDP/Liberal Alliance on leaflets was “caught between the (red) devil and the deep blue C?”, and there is little doubt many voters feel the choice is at present one between the lesser of two evils.

Most voters are not political devotees, statistically few are party members. They may agree on priorities though not necessarily solutions. They are likely to shy away from ideology, and are unlikely to identify as “working class” in a way the Morning Star might like. They want their kids educated and given better opportunities than they were, they want their parents cared for and the health and social care system to deliver when needed. They want bins collected, streets kept clean and the transport systems to function at least adequately. They want to get on with their lives in the knowledge that somebody relatively trustworthy, reliable and competent is keeping things going and, where possible, to make things better. The utopian ideal is not in our national psyche.

With Labour now firmly in the grip of the Left and essentially now a narrow Socialist Party, and the Tories increasingly in thrall to the hard-Brexit right of Johnson, Rees-Mogg and the UKIP entryists, a significant gap in British politics is opening up. It is wrong to describe it in terms of left wing, right wing and centrist. This is a battle between populists and pragmatists, between closed and open politics, between ideological prescriptions and a belief in “what works”.

To illustrate the gap in terms of politicians you could say it is a space occupied elsewhere by Macron and Merkel, or in the past by Blair and Obama. Popular but not populist, principled but not dogmatic. A Trudeau not a Trump. You don’t have to support every policy of these leaders or their parties to see the political space they occupy, not in the left/right spectrum but the progressive/pragmatic/popular versus reactionary/ideological/populist one.

There is now a clear space in British politics for a party offering opportunity for all regardless of background, fairness in our society and our economy, with taxes funding the services and infrastructure that both individuals and businesses rely on to exist and prosper. One that can deliver practical solutions on challenges like social care and local government finance, and clear but fair rules on migration. It would be open to European and global relationships, not fearful of them.

It would support intervention and investment by the state in health, education, transport and more with a clear vision on why and how that investment benefits all. Markets would be supported and encouraged to allow maximum opportunity and fair competition, with a vibrant community, co-operative, mutual sector. It would be robustly anti-racist with a foundation in British values of respect and again a clearly communicated message on how different communities add value to the nation and are an essential part of it. It will need a clear position on Brexit, but not be defined by it.

Managerial? Perhaps, but don’t underestimate the appeal of “what works”. Ideologically rootless? Not necessarily, there are many traditions other than hard-boiled capitalism and doctrinaire socialism to draw from. It wouldn’t capture the UKIP vote, or inspire the devotion of Corbynism. Like En Marche it may succeed because it was neither the status quo nor the unplatable alternative on offer. Whether Macron’s movement survives is another matter.

There’s no doubt that the global crash ten years ago has given rise to populism. That said, the argument that Corbyn’s Socialist Labour is the only party of the left doing well in Europe, because it has taken a more radical shift, is not borne out by the evidence. Similar left wing parties in France under Melenchon and Germany’s Die Linke poll at around Lib Dem levels of support. More social democratic-style parties hold power in Spain and Portugal.

I joined the Labour Party and have devoted half my life to it because I was persuaded it offered these things, could deliver on fairness, equality of opportunity, and social justice. It occupied that progressive, not centrist space. It’s clear now it no longer does. Labour now defines itself as Corbynites or Tories, Socialists or “neoliberals”, anti-imperialists or “globalists”, pro-Palestinian or pro-Israel. Binary choices rather than a broad church. Faced with these absolutes, I can no longer actively support Labour in its current form.

I wish Labour were again able to offer broad appeal. The people who need a progressive, pragmatic, popular government can’t afford to wait ten or twenty years for Labour “sensibles” to regain control of the party, if they ever can. Challenges and crises, domestic and foreign, none more so than the impact of Brexit, are urgent and immediate.

If these things were once again on offer from Labour, a new party, or by some grouping from within the Labour Party (and possibly others) in Parliament, then it would have my support, for what its worth. I think the potential for much broader support is very real. People want answers relevant to the challenges of the modern world, not a return to old solutions, be it renationalisation or “taking back control”. Some hope for a forward-looking, progressive politics; is that too much to hope for?

(If your publication or website needs content like this, please contact me at warren.morgan@hotmail.com)

Either In Or Out…

In response to a slew of articles over the summer speculating on a split in Labour or some realignment of the centre ground in British politics, most recently and with authority by Stephen Bush in the New Statesman, Corbynite cheerleader Paul Mason tweets that there is “plenty of room in Corbyn’s Labour for centrist social democrats and Remain die-hards”.

This will come as a bit of a shock to those of us who have been told over the past three years or so that we are not truly Labour, that centrism, “neo-liberalism” and pretty much anything associated with the past thirty years of Labour has now been superceded, replaced by the new Left. We are all “Blairites” and have no place in the Party. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been told, mostly online but occasionally in meetings and elsewhere, to “**** off and join the Tories”. In the binary world of the alt Left, if you are not backing Jeremy then you are by default a Tory.

Now I’m not about to join the speculation on whether some new Party, breakaway group or mass defection is about to happen, and if so what its prospects are. I think anyone who says it will be a disastrous repeat of the SDP, or a British En Marche sweeping all before it, is forgetting the fate of pundits who predicted the outcome of the EU Referendum or the last US Presidential election. Normal rules don’t apply any more. The electoral system here counts against third parties, up until the point where their support is broad enough, large enough and evenly spread, in which case it counts in their favour. Then again, who knows what the offer of a new party, beyond not being the Boris or Jeremy fan clubs, would be.

My point here is that the entire Corbyn project has been based on the assumption that the British public, despite telling pollsters that they identify with the centre ground, have been waiting for a full-blooded Socialist alternative in place of the anaemic version Labour offered in 2010 and 2015, and certainly the “neo-liberal” Blairite New Labour project the Corbynites despise so much. Thats the one that delivered three terms in power, massive redistribution, a huge alleviation in poverty, a near total elimination of rough sleeping and so on, but I digress.

Corbynites believed Labour was diluting it’s appeal by being a broad church, and that voters would get behind a much more ideologically based, clearly socialist manifesto.

The stated belief has been that the popular, left wing platform put forward by Corbyn (lets skip over the fact that his 2015 manifesto somehow left in the planned Tory welfare cuts) would sweep all before it. What Corbynism has been presented as is a revolution under the Labour banner, not an evolution of what went before.

Thousands of new members, an end to Blairism, spin and neo-liberal policy. Anyone associated with New Labour can do one. Blairites, they have argued, are responsible for losing millions of votes built up under Kinnock, Smith and, er Blair. After of course Militant was seen off in the 80s, though veterans of that battle of blame the SDP for the defeats of that decade, not the rejection of Bennite policies.

Yet it is strange how fragile and vulnerable this movement apparently is. That it has failed to build any kind of consistent lead in the polls or indeed win an election against the weakest Tory government in living memory, despite having significant advantages in terms of finances and activists, is blamed on a wide range of factors. The Tory press and the biased mainstream media. The “enemies within” failing to get behind the Leader (who himself has an unparallelled three decade record of not getting behind the leader), and most hilariously people like me with a few thousand followers on Twitter somehow fatally undermining the whole thing. More worryingly, some Corbyn extremists, in the cesspits of the Corbynista Facebook groups with tens of thousands of members, point the finger at shadowy Jewish conspiracies. Ironically, few recognise their own antisemitism or the toxic effect it has on Labour support.

Suddenly, faced with this media speculation of MPs actually leaving after years of being told to go and that they face deselection if they don’t, Corbyn’s media tribunes are starting to panic, talking about “splitting the vote” as if it is some monolithic slab (Ed Stone anyone?) rather than a fluid and unpredictable pool. These are the same people, in many cases, who in 2015 were “splitting the vote” by running as Green or TUSC candidates against Labour.

Voters are not a set of homogenous groups. Fewer and fewer have the kinds of tribal loyalties that held fast in the post-war years. They treat politics like they treat much else, as consumers making a choice between what’s on offer. That might be a positive choice in favour of the Socialist Corbynite offer, it might be a negative choice in terms of not being a huge fan of either but backing the lesser of two evils. The regular “preferred Prime Minister” polls that show a healthy lead for Don’t Know ahead of May and, in third place Corbyn, are perhaps an indicator of the public really not seeing anything they much like on offer.

Whether this translates into an opportunity for a new party to fill a vacuum I will leave to others to discuss. This is about the strength of the Corbynite offer, and whether Labour is now a closed and narrow Socialist party or an open, progressive broad church on the left/centre left of British politics. Whether they form a new party, or just leave, if the Corbyn offer is so strong, just let them go without the cries of “traitor”.

After three years seizing control of the Party at every level, and vicious hostility to those not seen as part of their faction, what Corbyn’s supporters cannot now say is “don’t go, we didn’t mean it, we can’t do it without you.”