While events in France rightly pushed Labour’s political crisis down the news, there is no escaping that Labour is in the middle of an existential crisis that could see the Party split or made an irrelevance within months.
The contested decision of Labour’s National Executive Committee to put Corbyn on the ballot paper and the confused franchise for the vote means there are more questions than answers in Labour’s long-running leadership saga. At a time when the Tories are uniting, Labour is falling apart. Accusations of bullying and intimidation are aplenty and though Jeremy Corbyn has repeated his opposition to threatening behavior, many acting in his name have chosen to ignore his words. The fight for votes will come later, the battle for the coming week is recruitment and stuffing the electorate with as many people as you can to back your point of view.
The precise mechanics of the vote means that for anyone joining the Party since the start of the New Year, they’ll need to pay up another £25 to get a vote in the leadership contest. Clamping down on backdoor routes to voting, such as via the trade unions, means the process of recruiting new supporters favours the richer middle classes who have flocked to Labour under Corbyn’s rule.
Those organising voter registration drives under the ‘Saving Labour’ banner regard Monday to Wednesday next week – the only window where ‘upgrades’ in memberships to vote in the contest are allowed – as crucial. Ad hoc phone banks are being organised across the nation by moderates seeking to enfranchise their supporters. Jeremy’s team have a much slicker operation and social media plans than the Saving Labour brigade whose tactical execution seems a little 20th century – they’re in need of some serious digital expertise and time is running out. After a bout of behind the scenes criticism expect to see Facebook adverts aplenty come Monday from Saving Labour and the pro-Corbyn sides seeking to persuade people to upgrade their memberships to vote. It could all be lost for those seeking to oust Corbyn by Wednesday if they can’t recruit enough supporters to offset Corbyn’s numerical advantage.
What is for sure, whether Corbyn wins or loses, the divisions in Labour are growing deeper and deeper. At a time of national crisis, whether you’re a Labour voter or not, the nation needs Labour to pull together to provide real opposition and accountability to the new Government. That doesn’t seem to be happening and we are all the poorer for that.