There’s an old City point oft made, that the next crisis will happen when all the people who remember the old one have retired. We seem to be having a replay of this as some 6 Labour MPs are considering leaving the party – no doubt claiming that the Party has left them – to become a new centrist organisation in Parliament and the country’s political life. You know, we’re all just crying out for technocratic trimmers to vote for.
What the City actually means is that the same crisis only happens when the greybeards have gone. Banks will only overlend into a property boom and then all go bust when the last Managing Director and CEO whose formative years as a trainee were spent terrified for their jobs as banks went bust as a result of overlending into a property boom have collected their pensions. Brokerages will only collapse in a pile of speculatives when the people who lived through Leeson and Barings are off playing golf seriously. Losing the lot on chasing yield, a la Corzine, isn’t going to happen until the 00’s crop are scouring Florida for Steradent.
Which means we must assume that politics is now clear – in an active sense – of those who recall Woy Jenkins, Shirley Williams and the Gang of Four. Sure, Lord Owen’s still around but who is listening?
A group of disaffected Labour MPs is preparing to quit the party and form a breakaway movement on the political centre ground amid growing discontent with Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership on Brexit and other key issues including immigration, foreign policy and antisemitism. The Observer has been told by multiple sources that at least six MPs have been drawing up plans to resign the whip and leave the party soon. There have also been discussions involving senior figures about a potentially far larger group splitting off at some point after Brexit, if Corbyn fails to do everything possible to oppose Theresa May’s plans for taking the UK out of the EU.
The point being that we’ve been here before. Labour moves left – or perhaps allows the extant left within the party to have rather more of a say – and the centrists think this a bad idea. So, they leave for the centre and within a few years are electorally wiped out. The SDP currently has some 41 members and an annual income of £750 odd. That’s party members, not elected representatives. There’s absolutely nothing at all to indicate that won’t happen again this time around.
For that’s just the way the party and electoral systems work in Britain. More to the point, that’s the way leftish such does. There’s just too much inertia for anyone but the extant Labour Party to harvest 25% or so of the vote. In a first past the post system that’s enough to keep a party in contention. Not enough to win, someone can siphon enough of the vote away to make sure power isn’t achieved, but not enough to kill off the organisation.
Which is exactly what the SDP managed. Kept Foot and Kinnock out of office and not much else. A Grand Service to be sure and one we’d be delighted to see repeated with Jezza. Except, of course, that’s not what the breakaways want. They want power and office, the very things they’re not going to get by breaking away.
The past century has only seen this done the once, the SNP. Ukip tried it, managed it with the non-FPTP voting system for the EU Parliament and never came anywhere in the Westminster one. Lots and lots of votes, nary a seat. If we stretch our century a tad, the rise of the Labour Party itself, to eclipse the Liberals, works.
But then consider why those two did work. There was a real cause to be fought for there. The representation of the working man, the porridge wogs against those who paid for them. Real causes in a manner that voting for technocratic centrists – careerists – just doesn’t flow those juices.
Sure, we all look forward to the Gang of Six and their keeping Jezza out of office. But that that’s all they’ll manage is why it’s unlikely to happen.