The election of Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party was as unsurprising as it is likely to be destructive to the party for at least the next five years. Yet the dire prospects for the future of the Party stem from a far deeper rot than simply the policies of Mr. Corbyn himself; the conduct of his supporters betrays a disturbing intolerance that will only further split and discredit the Party.
Corbyn's policies have been the topic of discussion for weeks, but they are worth recapping in brief. Firstly, on the domestic front, Corbyn has entertained the idea of reopening the coal mines, and has proposed renationalising the railways and energy industry, and the abolition of tuition fees. These projects would require considerable sums of public money, with renationalising the energy industry alone estimated to cost at least £124 billion (and possibly much more), which raises the question of where it will come from. Since proposing a tax plan which it was later admitted could only raise one-sixth of its target revenue, Corbyn has floated the one idea that is perhaps more absurd, namely People's QE, which has not only been discredited by economists but which may even be illegal under EU law. The alternative floated has been the classic fall-back solution of higher taxes on the rich being imposed, yet Corbyn and his allies need only look to France to see that the result of doing so will be capital flight rather than increased revenue (the latter was in fact achieved by the Coalition by reducing tax rates).
The above may strike his opponents as merely naïve, perhaps almost laughable. The same cannot be said for his foreign policy, which is often actively morally reprehensible. He is often described as "anti-imperialist", and yet has suggested that there is equivalence between the actions of the USA and ISIS while suggesting he would oppose military action targeted at the group. He also wrote last year for the Stop the War Coalition (which he still chairs) arguing that we should not even do something as simple as give arms to the Ukrainian government when the nation's territorial integrity is being threatened by Russian-backed separatists and Russian soldiers themselves, instead taking the opportunity to discredit the West as much as possible, and to misrepresent Euromaidan as a product of NATO scheming rather than the grassroots movement that it was. Finally, he has even gone so far as to suggest that the Falklands should be administered jointly between Britain and Argentina, despite the overwhelming wish of the Islanders to remain British, a move accurately described by veteran Simon Weston as "repugnant surrender". None of this should be described as "anti-imperialist", for it is actually pro-imperialist; it is outright apologism for and facilitation of the destruction of states, and of the right to self-determination of small nations, by the powerful regional bullies of the day.
Also pertinent on the foreign policy front are the allies that the UK would court under Mr. Corbyn, among them the government of Venezuela with which he has been committed to solidarity despite the country's standing as an exhibition for the failures of socialism, suffering from shortages of basic goods; rising murder rates; and rampant hyperinflation. More worrying still is his association with Hamas and Hezbollah, both of whom he has described as his "friends", a word which you do not use simply to express that you think we should negotiate with a group; certainly, in such cases, you do not host them in Parliament. With the UK having a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, these issues emphatically do matter, and will do nothing to endear swing voters towards Labour.
Mr. Corbyn himself, however, is only a microcosm of the crisis which has faced the Labour Party ever since his name appeared on the ballot in the first place, and which is exemplified perfectly by his victory, namely the naivety and absolutism of his supporters and the concerning levels of control over the Party they may possess. In the former case, "Corbynistas" seem firmly convinced that Labour lost the last election not because it was too left-wing to attract enough voters, but rather that it was not left-wing enough. Polling by the TUC suggests that the main reasons people were put off voting Labour were that they worried that a Labour Government would spend too much and make it too easy to live on benefits, issues which will surely only be exacerbated under a Corbyn premiership. Moreover, dreams of Corbyn mobilising non-voters to vote Labour is extremely presumptuous of the politics of said non-voters. In an age of universal franchise and an economy which has moved on from the coal mines Corbyn has considered resurrecting, what will be required from the Party to inspire support is not empty solidarity but policies that nurture aspiration; Corbyn's consideration of proposals such as a "maximum wage", and desire to raise taxes simply do not do that.
It is the second characteristic of Corbynistas that is far more concerning for the future of the Party, namely their intolerance of opposition both from within and without. On the former, the dismissal of Tony Blair and Blairism by CWU as a "virus" is typical of the vitriol directed at Tony Blair throughout the campaign and in response to his interventions. Despite the fact that he won three General Elections, Tony Blair's interventions appear to have been dismissed out of hand by Corbyn's supporters, who seemed increasingly convinced that they and only they were true Labourites with everyone else being so-called "Red Tories", much like so-called "Cybernats" have continued to argue that Scotland's interests and those of the SNP are one in the same. Their reaction to media criticism only fuelled the almost cult-like devotion exhibited by sections of the Corbyn camp. Diane Abbott, for instance, accused the Guardian of a conscious anti-Corbyn bias, and the BBC, often perceived as being left-leaning, was even compared to Fox News for broadcasting a Panorama programme that his supporters perceived as unduly critical. Furthermore, throughout the entire campaign, attempts to draw attention to Corbyn's unsavoury connections - some of which last to this day - were routinely dismissed as being "right wing smears". The same rules did not apply to other politicians, however, with Corbynistas sharing comparative photographs of Cameron and Corbyn in the 1980s, despite the fact that said photographs are decades old unlike Corbyn's present connections, in a stunning display of hypocrisy. In such an atmosphere, it is difficult to see how Corbyn will be allowed to moderate his positions if he so wishes, rendering Labour's electoral oblivion all the more likely.
The prospect of moderation from a Corbyn-led Labour gets all the less likely still when we look at his appointment of fellow hard leftistsJohn McDonnel (despite his pledge for 50% women in the Cabinet and anticipation that the more experienced and moderate Angela Eagle would take the post) as Chancellor and Diane Abbott as Communities Secretary, by contrast to the sacking of Kendall supporter Ivan Lewis. Given the choice between a Cabinet dominated by his allies, and one that is ideologically split and may be tempted to follow their leader's example and continually defy the Whip, it would appear that Corbyn has opted for the former.
In such circumstances, the cry to Blairites and other moderates in the Labour Party to stick out the next five years and hope for a better leader in the likely event of a Corbyn defeat appears a hollow one. With Labour's credibility almost certainly lost for the foreseeable future by the election of Corbyn and the atmosphere created in the party by his supporters, it would appear that the best option for Blairites and others may be to leave and form a new party as happened with the Labour-SDP split. The Labour Party as we knew it is dead; that doesn't mean its principles, or the idea of effective opposition in Parliament, have to die with it.