As well as all the other things that Labour MPs are anxious about at the moment, there is genuine anxiety in the party today that some MPs are considering splitting off to join a new, moderate group in politics. Certainly Labour MPs are pretty miserable about the state of their party – and about the way many of them are being treated by their own local parties. And many Labourites are starting to believe that a split is inevitable, with many arguing that it is wrong to be wary because of what happened to the SDP, as this would be a much larger chunk of MPs who would break off from the party than did in the 1980s.
This is agitating moderate senior Labour figures, who argue that their colleagues just cannot leave the Labour party and its brand for the hard left to gut like vultures on a carcass. ‘This is our party and we have to defend it,’ one says. The problem is that the other side think exactly the same: that they’ve finally got their Labour party back, and they are not going to let go.
A split could be inevitable, but the question is who leaves. Very few really want to be ones who have to set up new party and build its brand when as toxic as the Labour party is, it is still managing to poll 30 per cent (that’s eight points behind the Tories, who have just lost their leader after he lost a referendum and who have been tearing chunks out of one another for months, with the worst chunk-tearing taking place in the past couple of weeks during the leadership contest). In the end, it will probably boil down to what seems worse: staying in the Labour party, or escaping a sinking ship. As we are not quite at sinking ship stage (more steaming merrily towards the iceberg with a few hands on deck shouting warnings), both sides will hold on for a little while longer.