The Conservative party looks ready to split. The modernising 'Cameroons' and Europhiles have been drifting apart from the Europhobic and traditionalist right of the party for some time. This backbench rump has now earned itself a name: 'Swivel-eyed loons'. Since Lord Feldman's comments debate has engulfed the Tories on whether or not to investigate the smear, what an 'SEL' (to use the new acronym) actually is, and over the future of the party.
As ever with fall-outs on the right, particularly since the rise of UKIP threatens to pull the Tories apart ever faster, the left are accustomed to sit gloating and watch the liberal Tory frontbencher wrestle with their SEL colleagues on the back row, whilst we stuff ourselves with popcorn and self-congratulation. Yet all this soul-searching over what 'the right' is all about should force an admission from left-wingers that is very uncomfortable for some: some eyes swivel to the left.
What are the characteristics of a swivel-eyed loon? For the right, paranoid Europhobia, trenchant opposition to gay equality on spurious grounds that it will 'dilute the institution of marriage', and a hawkish resentment of the party's leadership are all necessary, but not quite sufficient. The swivel-eyed loon is completed disconnected from reality, the issues which actually affect people, and holds a deep and firm conviction that his own cause (for he is rarely a 'her'), however absurd, is not only everyone's interest but everyone's concern.
Now, turning to the left, there is almost a character profile for the swivel-eyed leftie. They are usually a member of the Socialist Workers' Party or similar left-of-Labour fringe group, with an air of 'prolier than thou' about them. They frequently fail to make distinctions between those to their right. To a swivel-eyed leftie, David Cameron is equivalent to a fascist and Ed Miliband is a Tory, and anyone who joins the Labour party is in league with them all, a greedy capitalist snout in the trough blocking the way to a proletarian revolution.
Don't get me wrong, some criticisms the swivel-eyed lefties make of Labour are valid. Labour's foreign policy since Blair has been atrocious, whilst the contempt shown for civil liberties as ministers sought to detain terror suspects for 90 days without trial was an affront to justice and the rule of law. The creeping privatisation of the NHS started under Blair, not Cameron, with the Private Finance Initiatives, just one strand of the neoliberal politics at the heart of the Labour party. But the minimum wage, Human Rights Act and reduction in child poverty were all laudable achievements, unless you sign up to the swivel-eyed mantra that all that is Blair is inherently bad, and that the party is irredeemably corrupted.
What happens when the swivel-eyed lefties get their way? In 1983 the Labour party adopted its most left-wing manifesto ever, later nicknamed 'The longest suicide note in history' by Gerald Kaufmann. Unilateral nuclear disarmament and the abolition of the House of Lords were just two examples of the electorally stupid policies thrown into the mix, as leader Michael Foot accepted any policy decided upon at conference, a mistake no Labour leader has repeated since.
The results were disastrous. Thatcher was re-elected on a tide of patriotism following her militaristic re-conquest of the Falklands (other peaceful options were available, no attempt was made to negotiate), whilst half of the anti-Tory vote went to the SDP/Liberal Alliance which had broken off from Labour's right flank.
The swivel-eyed leftie manifesto wasn't taken up by the electorate because it had the same hallmarks of the Europhobic and anti-gay marriage Tory backbenchers: They were ivory tower policies and a million miles from the hearts and minds of the average voter.
Outside of the Labour party, swivel-eyed lefties have had their moments. The 2003 'Stop the War Coalition' who gathered the largest mass movement in British history to protest Tony Blair's invasion of Iraq might have made a rational, pragmatic call to limit bloodshed and protect human rights. Instead, the coalition invited hate preachers into its ranks and was fronted up by the disgusting George Galloway. After the invasion, the coalition's resistance to an illegal invasion turned into support for the Iraqi 'insurgents' and the coalition called for an end to the occupation, which would have plunged Iraq into even more destruction than before as jihadists flooded the country. Nick Cohen writes at length about this in What's Left, which is the ultimate critique of the swivel-eyed leftie mentality. It can be summed up by saying: They know who, and what, they are fighting against, but who are they fighting for?
The recent implosion of the SWP over the central committee's cover-up of a rape scandal has prompted hundreds of their activists, including prominent Guardian writer and author Richard Seymour, to flick the V at the party and quit. This isn't the first rape scandal on the far-left, and nor will it be the last, so long as there are navel-gazing cults for the swivel-eyed lefties to join.
Gerry Healey, leader of the Workers' Revolutionary Party, would seduce, coerce and then rape party members after squeezing all their energies into his vanity project of a party. He gladly took money from Saddam Hussein and Colonel Gaddafi, but it is protest, not politics, that is the concern of such people. The labour movement is better off without them.
This is not to say that all left-of-Labour activists are equivalent to Healey or responsible for his crimes. The mass exodus from both SWP and WRP reflect this. But it does raise the question as to why so many socialists were taken in by these charlatans in the first place?
The debate on the the left about Labour is between the 'realists' and 'impossibilists', the broad leftists who understand the Labour party is a broad anti-Tory coalition necessary to fight Thatcherism, versus the narrow moral puritans in the SWP and other groups who despise any deviation from the path to true socialism. Many still forget that if you don't vote Labour, you will get Tory.
Eric Hobsbawm, a lifelong Communist, wrote that the Labour party 'is and will remain the only mass party on the British left'. He was quite right, we need to fight for Labour to represent the interests of the working class which founded it, not abandon the only vehicle which has any hope of achieving radical change.