If Corbyn clings on to the job, then that is when Labour’s problems really do begin.
There is already open talk that these rebels – for that is what they are, despite claims to the contrary – would in these circumstances elect their own leader and effectively form a new party, a move which could consign the existing party to oblivion. Corbyn has described this prospect as “bizarre”, has claimed that his leadership has actually increased the party’s membership, and that any breakaway faction would not be allowed to use the word Labour in its title.
The challenger, the dull Owen Smith, says that Labour now stands on a precipice, and that he is contesting the leadership to avoid a party split. But if he loses, he will create one. Angela Eagle would have been a far better candidate, but it is doubtful whether even she could have converted the might of the party outside Westminster, which is largely pro-Corbyn.
But it is their own fault for having devised such a ludicrous leadership election procedure, and they deserve no sympathy.
Never before has Labour been in such a mess, even though it has in the past had its fair share of internal problems. And as the shadow Chancellor John McDonnell has warned, the dissidents are now threatening the very existence of the party.
And so, within the next few weeks we could be seeing a total transformation in the British political scenario. The Tories can hardly believe their luck.
- The Prime Minister is coming under increasing pressure to hold a snap general election, while Labour is in such turmoil. The view is that, in these circumstances, the Conservatives would wipe the floor with Labour and emerge with a three-figure Commons majority.
But May is more canny than that. Corbyn may be despised by a large bulk of Labour MPs, but he is making a surprisingly favourable impression in the country at large.
In effect, he would not be such easy meat as many Conservatives believe, and so the Prime Minister is probably right to bide her time.