So he won. And, for second time in little over a year, he won pretty convincingly. Members of the Labour Party have made their choice, and they have chosen to be a purist left-wing sect pursuing their own narrow interests rather than a serious party of government.
Over the coming weeks, thousands of people will leave the Labour Party, and I will be one of them. Most have been party members for years. Some, like me, for decades. And they will leave because they conclude, in both sorrow and some anger, that the party they love has left them, and to remain only sustains what Labour has turned into.
These members are being replaced of course. But they’re being replaced by entryists using Labour to promote their own radical political philosophies. Some come from the Green Party at the more respectable end of the spectrum, but more come from Marxist and Trotskyist organisations unrecognisable and unpalatable to the British public.
One of the biggest myths about Labour is that it is has ever been (other than for a short period in the early eighties) a radical socialist party. As Harold Wilson said, “the Labour Party owes more to Methodism than to Marxism”. It was Labour that developed Britain’s first nuclear weapons, Labour that joined Nato, Labour that implemented the harsh post-war austerity programme, and Labour which – working with our great capitalist allies in the US – put in place Britain’s robust foreign policy position against the socialist Soviet Union. Whereas those who have now taken over the party think that the wrong side won the Cold War.
We departing members share the views of the mainstream, moderate people of Britain. We look in alarm at increasing disparities of wealth. But that doesn’t mean we want to smash the system. We know the market economy is the bedrock of our prosperity, we just want to make it work more fairly. We are patriotic, and want a robust response to the threats of radical Islamism, not a leader who calls Hamas his friends. We support a proactive and – at times – muscular foreign policy. Not a party that seems closer to Putin than to Obama.
I joined Labour when Tony Blair was the leader, and was privileged enough to go on to work in 10 Downing Street. People like me are devil-incarnate for the extremists running the show today. They will doubtless denounce me, the son of a postman who grew up on a council estate, as yet another Red Tory and scream good riddance. So be it.
Never before has a centre-left party been so needed, and never has the political space at the centre been so vast. The extremism of Labour is obvious. But we also have a government on course for taking Britain out of the Single Market as well as the EU, because it is determined to put its own ideology before the pragmatic national interest.
Theresa May may well be a kind and decent woman, but anyone who leads the Conservatives will inevitably be pushed by its MPs, members, and the party’s all-powerful donors to run a government for the few not the many.
The vacuum at the heart of British politics must be filled with a mainstream party of the centre and centre-left. A party determined to secure the closest possible relationship with the EU in the post-Brexit world. A party determined to marry economic prosperity with social justice. A party determined to fix practical problems like building more homes, improving state schools and properly resourcing the NHS in a pragmatic, non-ideological way.
Labour was all of those things once. It isn’t now. And this week, thousands will conclude it can never be again. We can either leave Britain’s future to the radicals of the left and right. Or we can start again with a new party in the centre. I vote for the latter.