Labour’s defeat in 2020 is assured, and they did it to themselves.

David R. Howell says Labour will see defeat in 2020, but it won’t be because of Jeremy Corbyn.

Labour will not be winning a General Election anytime soon. Any notion though, that an inevitable defeat come 2020 will be down to the unpopularity of Jeremy Corbyn’s policies, is flawed. Labour’s next defeat will primarily be built upon its own fractious nature, a carefully crafted state of division fostered from within the party elite, which seems utterly intent on rendering the party politically redundant.

It has become a popular trend among the likes of Burnham, Cooper and Kendall, to systematically cite the splitting of a party, dependant on the election of the seemingly most popular candidate. Each has taken it in turn, with varying degrees of vigorous language, to argue that the Labour party is destined to divide come the coronation of Corbyn. You might be forgiven for thinking some of the candidates were even encouraging it.

The doom mongering has been coupled with what has been described as a ‘robust’ effort to filter out the malevolent enemies within. Much has been made of the surge in Labour Party membership numbers. Political opponents to the party brazenly announced their new ‘supporter status’, in what has been reported as an attempt to destabilise the future of the Labour movement. Yet, for all the Tories who have been ‘robustly’ removed from the voting process, it would appear, from social media if nothing else, that Labour supporters, albeit ones inclined to the left, are also being disenfranchised by the ruling party elite.

In recent years, we have seen mass flurries of membership growth for the SNP, the Greens and the Liberal Democrats. At no point was media coverage of this growth treated with suspicion. Not once were these parties cited as suffering from infiltration. Yet, the surge of interest, dare say it, popularity, of the Labour party following Corbyn’s campaign, has been covered with just such reservation. For the interim Labour leadership, a growth in support for the party is instead a troubling matter, rather than cause for celebration. With high profile stories, including a cat being registered to vote in the campaign, there is no doubt just cause for a degree of caution. Yet in culling genuine, or at least those who consider themselves to be genuine, Labour supporters (even if the party does not consider them to be worthy of such status), many are being systematically barred from partaking in what, in theory, is a democratic process.

Should, or when, Corbyn takes the party leadership, it will be leadership of a party that seems to hold its own membership in utter disdain. Those who would lead the party in place of Corbyn have already made it clear that they will be taking several giant leaps away from the front bench, presumably taking with them their support base. The only exception is Andy Burnham, though his reconciliatory nature to serving in a Corbyn led shadow cabinet feels more a move of self preservation in frontline politics than a genuine desire to be part of a progressive opposition.

Were Corbyn’s efforts to fall at the final hurdle, will those who genuinely flocked to the party during this campaign remain? Or, will the hostility projected towards them by the other leadership candidates serve to send them scurrying towards the door as quickly as they came?

Whatever the dynamic of the Labour leadership might be in a few weeks’ time, it will be one which will preside over a significantly, and publicly, fragmented political party. Were those to have been so vociferous in their stated fears of Corbyn retract, the legacy of their publically stated concerns will regardless resonate through to the general election. The party will be irrevocably stained by the hostility shown between its own figure heads and towards its own membership. Whoever leads the Labour party on the 12th of September, will almost certainly not be leading a party into government come May 2020. That defeat, will have as much to do with how the party has behaved towards its own, as it will have to do with ‘risky’ left wing policies.

David R. Howell is a Lecturer in Heritage and History at Cardiff University, specialising in political uses of the past.

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