Jeremy Corbyn’s election as leader is a disaster for the Labour Party. It’s a particular disaster for those who believe that a party should select a leader who is a potential General Election winner and credible Prime Minister. And that a positive relationship with the businesses who create wealth and jobs, and pay the taxes that fund our public services, should be at the very core of Labour.
Corbyn’s starting point is that business is part of the problem, not part of the solution. And that’s going to create enormous difficulties for those companies that want to engage with Labour over the next five years.
Most businesses are completely apolitical. They want pragmatic, predictable, centrist and mainstream government, taking decisions on the basis of evidence. They also want multiple political parties to make their case. With the collapse of the Lib Dems, England is down to two serious political forces – and it’s hard to escape the conclusion that one of them has just opted out of that role.
But before you cry into your cornflakes, don’t forget that Labour MPs hardly backed Corbyn at all. Ignoring those that “lent him their vote” (they will be first for the gallows come the counter-revolution), he probably has only 20 genuine supporters on the Labour benches.
The remaining Labour MPs are the same bunch they always were. The sensible, the credible, the pragmatic and the economically literate far outnumber the Corbynistas. Business must keep talking to these people, and they must keep talking to business.
Many are expert in different policy areas, and they can still help companies meet their policy objectives, and make the government see the error of its ways when it gets things wrong.
So will those MPs immediately turn on the leader? No. They know that fools rush in and, in any event, his mandate is too great for that. Their strategy can be summed up in one cliché – give him enough rope and he’ll hang himself.
They expect him to fail not just because his radical left-wing policies are out-of-step with the electorate, but also because he has zero experience of running anything. Indeed, the competence question might just bring him down quicker than the ideological one.
The first major elections Corbyn faces as Labour leader are just eight months away, with polls for both the London mayoralty and – probably more instructively – for councils all around the country.
The sceptical Parliamentary Party will be looking for clear evidence that he can win seats that Ed Miliband couldn’t. And should that not happen, the plotting will begin in earnest next summer. More failure in the May 2017 local elections and the game could be up as soon as that.
Saturday was a terrible day for Labour, and a bad day for those who believe that a competitive political landscape is healthy for our democracy. But it is not (quite) irredeemable.
No party leader has ever had so little support from his own MPs. Unless Corbyn starts winning elections, and quickly, they will not tolerate his failures in the way they did Miliband’s. Hold your nerve. The counter-revolution might come sooner than you think.