Labour faces the same threat of division as the Tories


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The Independent Online

With the Clacton by-election weeks away and a general election on the horizon, anxiety is mounting in the Tory party about its prospects if Ukip voters fail to “come home” in time.

The consensus on both sides of the political divide is that the Conservatives cannot win a second term next May if the left goes into the election under one banner while the right goes to the polls under two. Labour should not feel too gleeful about splits on the right, however. It has divisions of its own to contend with, at least potentially.

The RMT transport union, once led by Bob Crow, and Unite, led by Len McCluskey, both talk about setting up a new working-class party if the Labour leader, Ed Miliband, fails to deliver in terms of winning the 2015 election, or if he fails to renationalise the railways and other sectors of the economy once he is in power. There needs to be “a discussion among trade unionists about a party of the left that looks after working people”, RMT’s new leader, Mick Cash, told this newspaper, ominously.

Of course, there is a difference between Ed Miliband’s situation and David Cameron’s. The right in Britain is split already. The left is merely in danger of splitting.

Whether Labour can hold the left together in Britain in the longer term is far from clear. The rise of the nationalists in Scotland, and of Ukip in England, both point to a wider realignment. Like the ice floes affected by global warming, the old parties are cracking and breaking up. The Conservatives were the first major party to suffer from this phenomenon. But that does not mean that Labour will escape unscathed.