We’ve had enough of politicians clinging to their positions. The party can unite through the principles its grassroots members still share.
It’s a Labour division that has reached peak bitterness since the bloodbath that was the local elections, but of course it’s been rumbling since 2015. I don’t mean the differences between the Corbyn faction and the centrists within the party (those count too, but are constantly aired), nor between the realists and the purists of the commentariat, but at the level of the local party meeting.
The term “members” is used in the media as shorthand for unwavering Corbyn supporters, understandably, given that they will persist in voting for him. Yet even the size of his mandate – never forget the size of his mandate! – doesn’t erase the existence of the solid core of local party members, 30% or so, who don’t agree with him.
For brevity, let’s call the factions Blairites and Corbynistas, even though that will irritate the hell out of both, as will a lot of what follows. Interview a new member, perhaps someone who’s also joined Momentum, and they are outraged by the way they’re characterised: of course they’re not Trots; of course they’re not hardliners; they just want to do politics differently. Interview a long-time member and they are baffled by the suspicion in which they are held by the new, their mildest remark about electability taken as an endorsement of the invasion of Iraq. “Which actual policies of Corbyn’s do you disagree with?” Corbynistas ask Blairites. “Who else in the country do you think you’re taking with you?” the Blairites return.
It’s not for me to adjudicate in this battle: I’m too close to the family to play marriage guidance counsellor. But I believe that if we don’t stop calling Blair a war criminal we’ll never be able to take any pride in the achievements of his time in office; I also supported Corbyn’s leadership bid in 2015, as an essential stage in the conversation the party needed to have with itself.