Tim Bale, professor of politics at Queen Mary, University of London, says Yes.
Businesses and political parties both operate in markets where competition can be cut-throat, where mistakes can be costly, where leadership and branding matter, and where, ultimately, the customer is king. Yet there’s one big difference: businesses – even firms so familiar we assume they’ll always be around – often go belly-up; parties – especially well-established outfits – rarely disappear completely. But rarely doesn’t mean never.
Once in a while, parties face perfect storms and, as a consequence, go under. Labour has a leader that the public can’t take seriously and a membership whose left-liberal leanings leave the majority of voters cold. Subject to a three-way squeeze between Ukip (trump card: immigration), the Lib Dems (trump card: moderate centrism), and the Tories (trump card: economic credibility), the party’s only lifeboat is our unfair electoral system.
If Labour does capsize, a few brave souls may survive by clinging onto the upturned hull until time and tide rescue them. Who knows, though, whether they will ever be able to right the ship and set sail again?
Chris Rumfitt, founder and chief executive of Field Consulting, says No.
The Fabian Society’s report concluding that the Labour Party is on course for a cataclysmic defeat at the next election is a statement of the blindingly obvious. During 2016 the polls went from bad to atrocious and Jeremy Corbyn is probably the least attractive personality, with the least appealing policies, ever to lead a major British political party. But this decline need not be terminal.
The electorate is febrile as never before, and they are fed up with the status quo. The hopes 52 per cent of the public invested in Brexit will not be satisfied, and before long they will be seeking a new vehicle to push their desire for change. With the Tories intent on Hard Brexit and right-wing obsessions like grammar schools, there is a huge vacuum in the political centre.
The Labour Party can reverse its decline. But it needs to ditch Corbyn and the hard-left policies that go with him, and return to the only place from which the party has ever won – the centre ground.