LABOUR MODERATES HAVE NO PLACE TO HIDE
LIKE Winston Smith at the end of George Orwell’s dystopian masterpiece 1984, Labour Party moderates have learned to love Big Brother. Senior Labour figures including deputy leader Tom Watson and London Mayor Sadiq Khan who once railed against Jeremy Corbyn made astonishing declarations of loyalty to his leadership at the party’s conference in Brighton this week.
Away from the scenes of adoration for the dear leader in the conference hall there was plenty of grumbling about bullying and intimidation by activists in the Corbyn-backing Momentum faction in local parties. Downcast moderates swapped grim tales about MPs and councillors being threatened with de-selection unless they agreed to recant on past criticism of the leadership and swear eternal loyalty to the cause. Local parties were said to be routinely passing Momentum-backed motions censuring sitting MPs for supposed betrayals of Corbynite orthodoxy.
The depth of the gloom among Mr Corbyn’s foes was striking. “We have to accept that we have lost,” one despondent party moderate told me. “The party has been taken over by the hard-Left and become a completely different organisation. For the current generation on the Right of the party it is all over.”
Another said: “We are like ghosts left behind from another age.”
No one at the conference in Brighton was discussing the possibility of quitting Labour and setting up a breakaway group as the Social Democratic Party attempted in the 1980s. The dwindling band of moderates who have not slipped out of politics altogether appear to be focused entirely on an effort to encourage the party leadership towards a pro-Brussels position on Brexit. They risk becoming fixated with a stance that will be at odds with many of Labour’s traditional working-class voters.
Mr Corbyn’s allies are intent on changing party rules to enfeeble MPs and hand power to the membership. Their aim is to turn Labour MPs into unthinking delegates sent to Westminster to carry out the instructions of Left-wing activists. For the foreseeable future Corbynites can sing The Red Flag confident in the knowledge that their moderate foes have hoisted a white one.