Opportunity often comes from the depths of crises and a crisis is very much what British politics is in at the moment. The Prime-Minister is leaving, the Tory leadership race is more fraught with treachery than a Game of Thrones plotline and nobody seems able to outline a post-Brexit plan for the country. So it is some achievement that Labour, and more specifically Jeremy Corbyn, have conspired to arguably usurp all of this with their very own meltdown.
Unable to form a shadow cabinet with the ability to outlive a mayfly, the leader of the opposition has come under a barrage of attacks from within and without. After losing a vote of no-confidence over a week ago now, Corbyn has faced incessant leadership threats from his former ally Angela Eagle, while the media continue their portrayal of him an out-of touch commie, at odds with the electorate.
The only thing keeping the beleaguered leader in power is the throngs of support he has been receiving from the public. Tens of thousands protested on Parliament Square last week in support of Corbyn with Momentum – a campaign group which backs the Labour leader – claiming to be receiving new members by the hundreds each day. But this in a way, is the very essence of the problem the party is faced with. How can more than 140 of its MPs be so out of touch with public feeling they were willing to mutiny?
It is no surprise that rumours of a potential split between Corbynists and anti-Corbynists grow louder by the day, but does Britain really need another left-wing party? Already there is Labour, the Greens, the SNP, Plaid Cymru and the Liberal Democrats; surely another would simply just serve to split the vote even further and strengthen the Tory’s grip on power. Not if the renegade Labour MPs were to join forces with the Lib-Dems though. Whispers of this potential eventuality have been growing louder in recent days, especially since Tim Farron opened the door to the possibility by telling the BBC that ‘no constraint should be put on what happens next’.
In a period of seismic shifts, this would surely be the most dramatic tremor, but looking beneath the surface, a Labour/Liberal amalgamation could actually make a lot of sense. After all, the Labour MPs most likely to defect would be on the right of the party, at odds with the rhetoric that socialist puritan Jeremy Corbyn has been attempting to peddle during his time in opposition. Meanwhile, Farron has begun to drag his party back to the centre left after its furore to the right under Nick Clegg. Indeed, the new leader spent most of his time in parliament during the previous regime voting down the controversial policies which came to define its time in government; namely tuition fee rises and the ‘bedroom’ tax.
This liberal approach has, shockingly, proved to be quite popular with the public. At the recent local elections, the Lib-Dems enjoyed admirable success in the context of their recent failings; adding 45 councillors, 20 more than UKIP who made the second most gains. In actual fact, Farron’s party are quickly becoming the most promising force in Westminster. There will always be a desire for a centrist party, even more so in this atmosphere of political radicalism. With Corbyn pulling Labour profoundly to the left and Gove, Johnson and Leadsom doing the direct opposite with the Conservatives, people are simply becoming disillusioned and looking for a more temperate option.
This is a theme the new alliance would do well to capitalise on; people are inherently disenchanted with politics in Britain and nowhere is this truer than with young people. Ironically this is partly the Lib-Dem’s fault after their reneging on tuition fee promises, but it is much more than this. Politics simply doesn’t seem to serve young people; it appears mundane, inconsequential and subjugated by self-serving careerists, why would they care about it? A new party may help to solve this. One that engaged the electorate, appeared trustworthy and who people could believe were going to fight for them. A Liberal/Labour alliance could be just that.
The resignation of Nigel Farage could also prove good news for an infant party. There is no doubt that Farage’s charisma and enthusiasm were one of the core reasons for UKIP’s success, but with him gone and Brexit already decided, the Eurosceptics could find their considerable vote share start to waver. Herein lies though, possibly the biggest problem with the British left in recent years. For too long now, the issue of immigration which UKIP largely built their following around, has been disregarded by Labour and their fellow leftists. The fact of the matter is that migration matters to an awful lot of people, to ignore it would be to greatly patronise the very individuals they hope to attract.
That issue has essentially been decided already with the Brexit vote but now the country is very much in need of another wave of populism. An amalgam of rebellious Labour MPs and the Lib Dems could be just that; an exciting new party which people can be optimistic about. It would unquestionably have a chance of success. The only thing currently standing in its way is the bravery of a few select individuals.