The Corbynistas’ five-year plan — based on the new, fixed-term electoral cycle — is becoming clear. Labour’s leader, the Rt Hon Jeremy Corbyn PC, well-mannered and soft-spoken, sporting a new suit and tie, plays Mr Nice Guy. Around him are his hard men: a wealthy Wykehamist Stalinist (for further and better particulars, see page 40), a Class War groupie and a Shadow Chancellor who for decades hymned the praises of IRA killers. Meanwhile, Corbyn’s entryist Red Guards — the 160,000-strong Momentum group — move to seize control of constituency parties and intimidate or deselect “moderate” MPs.
In spite of occasional uncoordinated outbursts of anger, the moderates are leaderless and in despair. No Hugh Gaitskell has emerged to repeat his bold pledge to “fight and fight again to save the party I love”. With a few honourable exceptions, they fudge, flap and play for time. Yet it is the five-year parliament which gives the moderates — and not Corbyn — an amazing advantage, so far unrecognised, if they are brave enough to seize it.
Consider this: the one thing neither Corbyn nor Cameron can do is trigger an early election. So decent MPs may lose the Whip, be deselected locally, or have their constituency lives made a misery — but, assuming David Cameron does not lose a confidence motion, they cannot be forced out of the Commons until 2020. The embattled moderates can, however, trigger by-elections, individually or en masse, whenever it suits them. All they need do is resign from the Commons and then stand again immediately, as independent Real Labour candidates. Or they could stay on in parliament, devoting the next four-and-a-half years to building new constituency bases.
The first step would be for 40-50 moderates to declare themselves graciously prepared to continue to receive the Labour Whip, but to add that they will consult together when contentious issues come up, talk to their constituents — constituents, not activists — and then decide how to vote. They could further warn that if one of their group is disciplined or expelled, they will all resign the Whip.
The fearlessly outspoken and nationally respected veteran MP Frank Field (with whom I have not spoken) would make a natural leader of such a group. He is said to be the number one Momentum target for deselection. He has already dared to say that, if moderate MPs are deselected and choose to trigger by-elections, standing as Independent Labour, he would canvass for them against the official Corbynite candidates. That really is raising the rebel flag.
In London, where Momentum is particularly well dug in, Chuka Umunna, David Lammy, Stella Creasy and Mike Gapes (whose sin is to be a friend of Israel) are all in the firing line. They have nothing to lose but their chains. Simon Danczuk in Rochdale is in trouble too. It surely can’t be long before the Thought Police come for those feisty women MPs, Gisela Stuart and Kate Hoey. Then there are those who said publicly they would not join Corbyn’s shadow cabinet: not much future for them unless Corbynism is stamped out. Let battle commence.