‘We’ve got our party back’ – Are labour and the conservatives facing the same basic challenge?
This was first published by Huffington Post.
With the prospect of a new Conservative leader looking ever more likely and Jeremy Corbyn secure in his position, wings of each party are very happy but that does not make the future of either party secure.
Anna Soubry MP’s comments on Newsnight about the need to remove hard Brexiteers from the party has, as would be expected, caused massive ructions. She is though, in essence, completely right. The issue of Europe has now caused the demise of several Conservative Party leaders and Prime Ministers.
Whilst Mrs May has attempted to reassure both sides of the debate, it is Brexiteers that seem to have most to cheer since a and the Customs Union have both been ruled out. But that is not enough for these most committed of anti-EU politicians.
That has meant that Jacob Rees-Mogg has emerged as the preferred champion of many. Not that he is without faults but he does have the main benefit, as far as many in the Parliamentary party are concerned, of not being Boris Johnson. Rees-Mogg has swung himself into position as the leading Brexiteer. Conservative MPs know that there must be one on the final leadership ballot of two that goes to the party membership. If he is on that ballot, then members could well see him as the future.
But just as Corbyn saw mass resignations and people refusing to serve with him then Rees-Mogg could well face exactly the same challenge.
The Conservative Party also has to appreciate that Rees-Mogg will face continued questions over many of his previously stated positions. They may be firmly held, often because of his religious beliefs, and he may have no wish to change policy or legislation on them but the questions will continue to be asked. Just see what happened to Tim Farron.
There is also the question on a short-list of two, of what happens if one has to drop out again, just as Andrea Leadsom had to? Would the party then face the prospect of another coronation? What will Brexiteers do if the candidate that drops out happens to be their preferred choice and how would the party membership feel?
There is no doubt that the left of the Labour Party did get their party back. Corbyn is currently unassailable. It has been suggested that Labour moderates have ‘gone quiet’ and have given up the fight. But this is far from the mark.
On Europe, they seem to have found common ground with many of the new, particularly younger, Momentum members. Taking a longer-term approach, if the ‘moderates’ can show that they have more in common with this group than some previously thought then the inevitable rise and rise of the left is challenged. Instead, it opens up the prospect of the party really working together again. The term ‘Blairite’ will be one of abuse for some time to come but the party might start to realise that is does have more in common than that which divides.
So just as Neil Kinnock felt that the left had got the party back from the clutches of the Blairites which in turn resulted in Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, the Tory Brexiteers hope to get their party back and avoid losing potentially their only chance of really consciously uncoupling from the European Union. Whereas Labour could start to come together again over Europe, there is no chance of that happening to the Conservatives. Ironically, Europe could be the saviour of one and pose fundamental challenges to the future of the other.