With hundreds of thousands of new supporters, Labour is on the verge of something big – what a complete disaster!

Having loads of young voters engage with your party must be terrifying

Mark Steel
Friday 14 August 2015 12:04 BST
Tony Blair
Tony Blair

It’s easy to see why those in charge of the Labour Party are so depressed. They must sit in their office crying: “Hundreds of thousands of people want to join us. It’s a disaster. And loads of them are young, and full of energy, and they’re really enthusiastic. Oh my God, why has it all gone so miserably wrong?”

Every organisation would be the same. If a local brass band is down to its last five members, unsure whether it can ever put on another performance, the last thing it needs is young excited people arriving with trombones to boost numbers and raise money and attract large audiences. The sensible response is to tell them they’re idiots, and announce to the press that they are infiltrators from the Workers’ Revolutionary Party.

The Labour Party in recent years has insisted that it’s a party that understands business. But if it were running Apple, it would employ a novel approach. A report could come in that a new product was so successful that customers were queuing up to see it, and the sales staff were having to stand on fire engines to address the crowds eager to buy it. So Labour would say: “We’ll scrap that for a start. Let’s promote our other models that have initiated no interest from anyone whatsoever, such as a digital table mat. That’s how to make money.”

The fervour around Jeremy Corbyn is extraordinary, but it wouldn’t be fair to suggest he’s the only Labour politician who can bring large crowds on to the streets to greet him. Tony Blair is just as capable. In his case the crowds are there to scream that he should be arrested for war crimes and to throw things at him, but that’s being pernickety; he can certainly draw an audience.

Blair made another contribution to the leadership debate this week, and his prose is worth quoting. It goes: “The party is walking eyes shut, arms outstretched, over the cliff’s edge to the jagged rocks below. This is not a moment to refrain from disturbing the serenity of the walk on the basis it causes 'disunity'. It is a moment for a rugby tackle if that were possible.”

It’s fitting this was published on the day that A-level results were announced, as it’s hard to imagine how any examiner would have marked this. It’s possible he didn’t even write it himself, and he’s stolen it from the lyrics of an obscure prog rock band from 1975. Maybe there’s another verse: “As we float across Narnia in a bubble of tadpoles, an iguana with a beard threatens to make us anti-business by renationalising the railways, and we cry in a golden canoe that no one will vote for us in Nuneaton.”

Or he was simply trying to convey the scale of apocalypse that will result from Labour electing a leader who stands for something. Tomorrow he’ll add: “Our great party is literally climbing into the mouth of a lion, as it stands unaware of an American dentist poised behind, dozing as it climbs into a ride at Alton Towers that hasn’t been checked since 2008, placing our economy in a shopping mall in America just before a teenager goes berserk with a machine gun. Is THAT what you WANT?”

His accomplice of old, Alastair Campbell, has been just as coherent, insisting Jeremy Corbyn would lead the party to disaster beyond imagination. Maybe there’s still time for Alastair to prove his point by compiling a dossier explaining in detail exactly how Jeremy Corbyn would cause this disaster, showing beyond doubt that the disaster would be caused within 45 minutes, so that the only rational response is to invade Jeremy Corbyn.

This week, I was lucky enough to enjoy at first hand this calm approach of Labour’s leaders, when my application to register as a supporter was turned down on the grounds that: “We have reason to believe that you do not support the aims and values of the Labour Party.” I suppose it’s encouraging that they’re being so thorough, although it could be argued that leading your country into a disastrous invasion, having justified it with a set of premises it turns out you made up, is also slightly at odds with the aims and values of the Labour Party. So, presumably, Blair and Campbell and their supporters will have received the same email as me?

Or there’s Simon Danczuk, the MP who has pledged to do all he can to overthrow Jeremy Corbyn from day one of his leadership. I wonder if publicly committing yourself to bringing down the democratically elected leader of the Labour Party could give someone a reason to believe you didn’t support the aims and values of the Labour Party?

If not, this could lead to a whole new way of running organisations. When someone joins the Scouts they should have to pledge to bring down the Scouts from day one, otherwise they’re not allowed to join. If a new member applies to join a bowls club, they should be asked if they’re prepared to abide by the rules of the elected committee, and if they are, they should be told to sod off and never come back.

Then there’s John McTernan, the former adviser to Jim Murphy, who insists that Corbyn will be a catastrophe, and that the party should continue with the strategy he devised in Scotland, which took the party’s MPs from 41 to a much more manageable one, making it far easier to deal with admin.

These are the types you want to make a party successful, not crowds of young enthusiastic people eager to change society. Isn’t it obvious?

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