“A democracy is nothing more than mob rule.” This saying, attributed to the United States' third president, Thomas Jefferson, rests uneasily on the ears of all who call themselves democrats. Yet in times of crisis, like those currently lived by the Labour party, it bears the ring of authenticity. Supporters of the different leadership candidates have succumbed to a mob mentality in their blunt and unrelenting attacks on one another. Hundreds of thousands of newcomers have joined the fray seeking to push the party into new and uncharted territory.
This misunderstands the nature of politics. The assumption here has to be that the electorate has become inherently right-wing and will remain that way. We are at 'the end of history' as Fukuyama might say. Well, leaving aside the political successes of Syriza, Podemos and the SNP, politics simply does not work that way.
This Labour leadership contest should sound the death-knell for the alternative vote (AV). A system that was ostensibly designed to allow the party to elect its “least bad” choice has instead led to a hopelessly complex situation in which ‘Anyone But Corbyn’ voters are relying on guesswork and dodgy data in order to come to their decisions.
Labour’s endless leadership election has badly damaged the party. Whoever is ultimately elected leader, one of their first challenges will be to unite a party only recently rejected en masse by the electorate. To take the fight to the Tories and to stand any chance of winning the next General Election, those who backed a losing candidate must be told: this is your party too.
Whatever the faults of Labour’s new electoral system, its rules were agreed some time ago and it was supported by loud voices across the Labour Movement. Therefore, any talk of “halting” the leadership election at this point should be dismissed for the hogwash that it is. Serious questions will have to be asked about whether “supporters” should really have as big a say as “members” in deciding who leads Labour, but that is for another day.
Nonetheless, the system we have is not going to change at this point and, whichever way the outcome goes, nearly half of the selectorate will be bitterly disappointed. The great swelling of Labour’s support since the General Election must now be built on by whoever leads Labour. Which is why I was so disturbed when someone added me to the below Facebook group a couple of night ago.
I have edited out the names of those involved and the conversations that took place because, to be honest, they would probably do a lot of damage to the participants if shared more widely. Now, the fundamental point that Labour MPs shouldn’t be mounting a coup against any leader – particularly one recently elected – is fair. But that hasn’t even happened yet, has it? So groups like this simply appear like pre-emptive, divisive witch hunts.
I don’t know why I was added to the group in the first place. I’m not backing Jeremy Corbyn and I find groups like this somewhat sinister. As soon as I was added to the group and saw what it was, I posted to suggest that it was a bad idea. This meant that I was immediately set upon in several comments for being “undemocratic”, “anti-Corbyn” and of course, “a Tory.”
Even more strangely, I was immediately made an admin. Laughably, this enabled me to add dozens of moderate members I know of to try and get the founders of the group to see sense. After a wave of condemnation from people explaining that this group was divisive, and hardly the right way to safeguard Labour Party democracy, it was taken down.
You may think that this is all rather trivial. I don’t. I don’t happen to think talk of Labour MPs forming a “resistance” group if Jeremy Corbyn is elected gives off the right message either. Perhaps you have been inspired by this leadership election. Well, good for you. But from the conversations I have had with passive observers outside of politics, the whole unedifying spectacle has merely served to push us further away from electability. And further away from helping the people who need us.
Those who support or are members of the Labour Party must remember we are the people who believe that by the strength of our common endeavour we achieve more than we achieve alone. If, when the next Labour leader is announced, we do not heal as a movement, I guarantee you that we will fail as individuals.
So, please, whoever you are backing to be Labour’s next leader: remember who the real enemies are. And let’s beat them.
Sam Stopp is a Labour councillor for Wembley Central, a Young Fabian member and Chair of 'The Labour Campaign To End Homelessness'.
Sam is writing in personal capacity, and views are not representative of the organisation.
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