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.

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

  1. Indeed. As one of the disenfranchised I am beginning to be convinced that while grass roots Labour supporters, party workers and the like genuinely want a Labour government, the top brass and big earners agree with the their Tory friends that the natural state of British politics is a Tory government and a Labour opposition.

  2. Much as one would love to believe it, Labour defeat is far from inevitable.

    For a start, this is not 1983. The Conservatives are not all-conquering. They have just scraped a bare majority smaller than John Major’s in 1992, and that contrary to expectation, despite all the political and economic advantages being in their favour.

    Moreover, as the ominous rumblings from China should remind us, there is a more than 50% chance of a global economic downturn between now and 2020, which will impact on Britain, even if the British government does everything right. Incumbents always get the blame of this, whether fairly or unfairly, so, if Mr Corbyn does become Leader of the Opposition, it is quite possible that he might end up Prime Minister by default.

    This is why, contrary to Blairite claims, most of us who tend to dress to the right politically are not in fact signing the cat up for the Labour Party to vote for Mr Corbyn.

  3. Without factoring in the proposition a split in the Conservative Party, following the vote that keeps the UK in the EU, the failure of the Labour Party at the 2020 election is a flawed prediction.

  4. A week is an ‘eternity’ in politics and I see no purpose in speculating the health or otherwise of any political party that will face 2020 elections.

    Perhaps of more concern is the Welsh Labour Party and May 2016 Assembly elections – Will the Welsh media help them again to conceal their true colours of the Y Fro nationalism and the Welsh language above all else policies that have damaged Wales immensely in the last 16 years?

  5. When Labour were winning three consecutive elections the pundits said the Tories could never win. After the first majority Tory Government for 23 years now Labour cannot win. Predicting the result of an election in 4 years and 9 months is I believe impossible. The one thing we do know is that Jeremy Corbyn has enthused young people to join the Labour party in large numbers.

  6. J Protic is correct. It is not Corbyn that we should be worried about, but the Welsh language that is destroying the NHS, education and the industrial base of our nation. Only UKIP can save us now!

  7. A week in politics is a long time – so they say. Predicting the outcome of politics in over 4 years time is bizarre and open to criticism in 5 years time from those who will say ‘you got it horribly wrong …yet again!’
    ‘Events, dear boy’.

  8. Jacques, I think you should stand for election on an anti-Welsh language platform since you believe there is a substantial unrepresented body of anti-Welsh electors. I would second your nomination in the same spirit as Margaret Beckett nominated Jeremy Corbyn. I guess SeymorBytts and Howell Morgan would vote for you.

  9. Let’s not forget that predictions even made the day before the 2015 General Election were wrong. Five years is a long time and the most deciding factor in 2020 will be what it always has been: “events, dear boy, events.”

  10. @ Mike Hedges

    There are too many variables at the moment to predict as far ahead as the 2020 election. I’d go so far as to say that even a year ahead is looking very confused as well. Media comments tend to be based not on analysis but on a rationalisation of current circumstances which are then projected forward. Newspapers don’t sell themselves after all. But it is worth noting that Tony Blair saw off John Major, William Hague, Ian Duncan Smith and Michael Howard before succumbing not to the political ability of David Cameron but to the ruthless ambition of Gordon Brown. And until 2003, Tony Blair was untouchable. His command of the political landscape in the UK was second to none.

    The rot set in when he led the country into an illegal war though the damage was not imminent. He still won the subsequent election in 2005 against Michael Howard.

    Coming back to the modern day, it is still too early, in my view, to discern the significance of Jeremy Corbyn’s current popularity. Various theories abound but I suspect that there are a number of conflating factors among them a need to rediscover a sense of idealism after the failure of managerial Labour to win back power at Westminster as well as a sense of nostalgia for the old days including, apparently, reopening the coalmines in South Wales. Perhaps we can reintroduce diptheria while we’re at it.

    The real battle however will start after the election result. We shouldn’t forget that Chuka Umunna is in hiding waiting to time his return. His withdrawal from the election was never really explained apart from references to friends’ comments about his being in a dark place. What is true however is that he will make the perfect figurehead for the continuation of the moderniser’s cause. The question is when.

  11. I profoundly disagree with David Howells view on the popularity of Corbyn`s policies. More importantly, I also think his economic policies wont work. I do agree with David about the fractious and divisive outcome of a Corbyn victory. I cant see a long list of applicants for the then post of Opposition chief whip.Just how do you suppose you inspire loyalty to a leader who has been so disloyal to the 5 previous leaders and how do you get MPs to obey a whip that Jeremy ignored over 500 times?

  12. JOJ. How do you get MPs to obey a whip? Dunno. It depends on whether they want to look like a political party or a rabble. Do they want to have even an outside shot at the next election or would they prefer to refight old battles and make defeat a self-fulfilling prophecy? we have no idea yet what they would be asked to support. I doubt if withdrawal from Nato or nationalising Centrica without compensation will come up – whoever wins.

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