There’s a lot to admire about Jeremy Corbyn. For one, you can’t fault his conviction. While his entire party falls over itself to adopt as many Tory policies as possible, Corbyn remains a stalwart voice of the left. The ideological antithesis of Kendall and the Blairites, Corbyn appears to want to finish the job that Ed Miliband started: bringing Labour back to the left.
It’s no wonder, then, that Toby Young and a cadre of other Conservatives want to see Corbyn win. After all, Miliband led Labour to its worst defeat since 1983; he achieved the seemingly insurmountable by appealing to the electorate less than Gordon Brown. To witness that defeat and watch the Labour party administration transfer from the hands of a Hampstead Liberal to an unabashed socialist is something Conservative politicos would no doubt relish.
That’s why Young has put forward #ToriesForCorbyn, a small campaign encouraging Conservatives to join the Labour party and cast ballots for camp Corbyn. Writing in the Telegraph, ‘For just a £3 membership fee you can help consign the party to electoral oblivion in 2020 – and silence its loony Left forever.’
Far from a serious coup attempt, Young’s plan amounts to a wry thought experiment. It’s the sort of playground politics that keeps the political punditry entertained between elections. The prospect of Corbyn winning is slim to none, even with Tory support, and everybody knows that: Young calculated that it would take approximately 80,000 #ToriesForCorbyn to win. This is just as Guido put it.
Yet against the (currently 18/1) odds, the Labour party appears to believe that a Tory-bolstered candidate would be a genuine threat. As if in agreement that Corbyn would indeed lead the Labour party to commit suicide by ballot box, their press corps has briefed the Huffington Post that the party is They say they’ve discovered fifteen covert tories, including Justice Secretary Michael Gove. Given that Gove is a member of the cabinet, you’d be awarded no points for guessing what gave him away.
This isn’t the first time Labour HQ has tried to root out those they consider to be turncoats. Last month, Labour made the news when it sent letters to Scottish members who voiced support for the SNP on social media, . Normal political parties do not expel their members and then salt the earth just for losing faith in them – but this is exactly what happened in Scotland. Then again, Labour has not been a normal political party for some time. The raving response to #ToriesForCorbyn is just the next sad chapter of its slow descent into madness.
Rather than focusing on rebuilding after a crushing defeat, Labour is diverting resources to purging its membership of the ideologically impure. One imagines that the majority of the fifteen Tories Labour HQ expelled are less prominent than Michael Gove, so how are they deciding who is worthy of expulsion? Are they scouring social media accounts, as they did when expelling SNP voters? The Huffington Post says that Labour are liaising with regional offices in order to verify new members, which means that some quantity of Labour’s staff across the country is devoted to this bizarre project. The mind boggles.
Labour has had a problem with entryism since its establishment, but rarely has it taken action. It took the party’s National Executive Committee nearly two decades to disaffiliate from the Trotskyist Militant Tendency, yet it is patting itself on the back for identifying Michael Gove as a potential Tory infiltrator.
The paranoia currently gripping Labour will only hurt the party going forward, for it does little except bring greater attention to those left untouched. Rather than condemn Tom Watson for they’ve allowed him to It’s a worrying day for liberals when the UK’s leading centre-left party would rather devote resources to ridding itself of dissidents as opposed to tearing down the walls that divide communities.
Toby Young should be proud, because his experiment has evidently got under Labour’s (very thin) skin. It only took fifteen people to force the party into action, offering an implicit admission of the disaster Corbyn would be and showing how far they’re willing to go to make his leadership less likely. Let’s face it: it is extremely unlikely that the party would have cast out people if they were voting for, say, David Miliband or Alan Johnson.
Pencil-pushers at Labour HQ may laugh at the fact they can hang on to the money Gove and co paid to join the party (a grand total of £45, or a few inches of billboard), but in politics, intelligence like this is priceless. For starters, it’s yet more proof that socialism will never again drive the Labour party.
And they’ve revealed something else, too: while gouging Young’s Conservatives out of the membership, they’ve shown how little they’ve grown in the two months that have followed polling day. Chasing diversions like a fleeting hashtag campaign allows the party to distract itself from asking the tough questions it needs to ask if it ever hopes to be elected again. After a loss that dire, someone in Labour must be watching this play out and asking themselves: ‘Christ, don’t we have anything better to do?’