The shadow Chancellor of the Exchequer has explained that Labour’s disastrous performance in the Copeland by-election was the fault of Tony Blair and Peter Mandelson. His case was that both those has-beens made unhelpful (to Labour) comments in the days before the by-election which led the people of Copeland to desert the cause and vote for evil Tories.
Obviously, that theory is barmy. But there may be some truth in the notion, nevertheless, that Blair lost the by-election for Labour.
No serious observer of current British politics could dispute the fact that Jeremy Corbyn is and always will be, an election loser. While he remains leader of the Labour Party, unless something dramatic happens to the Conservatives, there is no prospect of his party winning a general election.
Most members of the parliamentary Labour Party are agreed that their leader is a disaster. As has been shown in several by-elections, most spectacularly yesterday, the voters are of the same view. The opinion polls consistently show Labour plummeting. And the primary cause of that, undoubtedly, is the fact that the electorate thinks Corbyn is hopeless.
But Corbyn is there for the duration. His House of Commons colleagues tried to get rid of him. They failed miserably. He is determined to remain leader of his party for many years to come. He knows that all those thousands of people who joined Labour in order to vote for him first time round will never desert him. They, like him, have very little interest in Labour winning elections. What they want is a “pure” Labour leader, someone who will stick up for decent old-fashioned Labour opinions, however unpopular they may be.
And that brings us back to Blair. Corbyn and his supporters hate Blair. He sacrificed Labour dogma in order to win elections. Having won those elections, he failed miserably to use his power to reverse “Thatcherism”. Industries were not re-nationalised. The rich and middle income earners were not taxed into oblivion. Britain’s nuclear deterrent was retained. America continued to be our ally. “Imperialist” wars were started for no good reason (there is a lot in that criticism).
Corbyn and those who elect the leader of the Labour Party are entirely agreed that there should never be another Blair. What is more, they have now become convinced that the only way Labour can win elections is to betray its beliefs. Better, by far, that Labour should be permanently in opposition than that it should be in government and fail to make Britain a Socialist state.
Labour’s only hope of winning general elections lies in its getting rid of Corbyn. But Corbyn won’t go and, if his parliamentary colleagues try to get rid of him, his supporters in the country will always vote him back. Why is that? The answer is plain, there must never be another Blair.