Yes, we’re still friends because we’re united by our wants. We want a left-of-centre government, we want a fairer society, we want those who are sick, or unemployed, or struggling with society’s many ills to be afforded what they need and given hope, we want worthwhile education, we want an NHS that cares for us from birth through to death without crushing the tremendous spirit of the carers who work within it nor taking their many sacrifices for granted, we want dignity in old age, we want an end to unfair working practices that make life a misery for those less well-off, we want equal justice for all, we want to go to sleep in our beds at night knowing that others aren’t settling themselves down for another night on the streets, we want to live in a developed country where people don’t routinely have to rely on food-banks to stay alive, we want a country that we’re proud to call our home.
How could we want all that together and not be friends? How can it be that when all of the above lies within our grasp we’re fighting each other on social media? How can it be that we’re both prepared to sacrifice all of the above, to give up all hope of it, to leave it to our political rivals to decide what, if any of it, ever happens…all over one man?
We both know that Jeremy Corbyn is going to be re-elected to lead the Labour party next month. We both know that, if anything, his support amongst the membership of the party is going to be stronger than it was last year.
My question to you, his supporters, is “Then what?”
Because I think we both also know that he will never be Prime Minister.
I could write a long missive about any number of subjects, and you could write one back refuting it point-by-point and we could repeat that until the time when it matters is long since passed.
Instead consider what happens the day after his leadership win…he returns to a party where 170 or more of his own MPs don’t support him, he still can’t fill his own front bench, he’s still facing a formidable opponent across the aisle and all of the charges that I could have written my long missive about will still be there.
Some MPs may accept the result of the leadership contest and fall in behind them, but you don’t really trust them to really support Jeremy, and I think you’re right in that.
You could de-select the rebels, of course, but you’d be de-selecting people who, though in your eyes they may have betrayed Jeremy, have served their constituencies…in some case for years. How many people’s problems have they listened to and solved? How much of minutia of daily life, that doesn’t make the front pages, have they waded through? How many doorsteps have they stood on? How many local events, local companies, local groups have they given their support to? How loved are they in their communities?
The political costs involved in de-selecting them, of plucking them from amongst the people with whom they’ve fostered relationships, in the name of remote Westminster games will be huge.
And then we’ll get a general election, and the party is in the jaws of a media you already believe is hostile and biased. Everywhere we look there’ll be a Tory election poster showing Jeremy smiling with an 80s Gerry Adams, or posing with supporters of Hamas. His less wise quotes will be everywhere, in letters as tall as a person.
You can write a thousand blogs and alternative media articles explaining them all, and all of them put together won’t be seen by as many swing voters as a single poster in the centre of London.
Then it’s over, and we have another 5 years of Tory government, and all of those things from the first paragraph will be further away.
That will be sad for you, and it will be sad for me; but to those people who rely on disability living allowance, or JSA, or housing benefit, or who are sleeping rough, or sleeping on a bed in a hospital corridor that we’re a bit sad will seem rather hollow.
Don’t feel despondent, though. Look what you’ve achieved…in last year’s leadership election we had four candidates from across the political spectrum of the party, in today’s leadership election it’s two left-wingers. In terms of policy there’s almost nothing between Corbyn and Smith. I’d even go as far as to suggest that if Smith had been in Corbyn’s place in the last leadership election you’d have welcomed him with open arms. You’ve done it, you’ve moved the party leftwards!
Rejoice in your victory and know that we can end the Labour civil war next month, but only by electing Smith.
I know it’s not what you want…but re-read the start of this letter again and decide what it is you really want.