There were two articles in last week's Guardian about the dire straits the Labour Party have created for themselves . The first, by celebrated film maker Ken Loach, argued that Labour's MPs should stop stabbing their leader, Jeremy Corbyn' in the back and ended with the rousing coda:
"If [Corbyn and McDonnell] had a powerful movement to sustain them, Labour under their leadership would start to cut back the power of capital, remove multinationals from public services, restore workers' rights, and begin the process of creating a secure and sustainable society in which we could all share."
The second, by Owen Jones, ends with a desperate call to arms:
"Either we become a country riddled with hatred and fear, a playground for billionaires that slashes support for the working poor and disabled people, that runs down and flogs off the services we depend on - or we become a country run in the interests of the real wealth creators: the workers."
but offers the solution that Mr Corbyn should should voluntarily step aside and be replaced by someone with similar views but better leadership qualities.
Given that Mr Corbyn, victor of not just one but two party elections, has said that he has no intention of standing down, and the identity of the alternative with similar views but better leadership qualities is not obvious, the solution to the dilemma seems to me to be unarguable: Labour MPs and other luminaries should stop sniping, unite behind Corbyn and start fighting the Tories rather than each other. This will, of course, require some contrition and mea culpas on the part of some Labour big-hitters. Lent seems a suitable season for it.
A bigger pill for Labour to swallow is to recognise that, for the foreseeable future at any rate, they cannot win a general election on their own, and they must seek to ally with others on what can loosely be regarded as the "progressive left."
Sadly Labour's difficulty in acknowledging this solution is their blind conviction, at both local and national government levels, that they and they alone have the one true vision of the ideal future, and the unique recipe for achieving it. They therefore regard Liberal Democrats*, Greens, Nationalist and some others as interlopers who should get off their territory and leave them to it. They refuse to recognise that Liberal Democrats with our emphasis on liberty and genuine devolution, Greens with their emphasis on caring for the environment, and nationalists, can all bring something useful to the progressive mix.
As a veteran of the Liberal Party's Alliance with the SDP I acknowledge that arranging such a united front at a national level will be difficult and entail sacrifices by all involved. But what other way is there of avoiding the dystopian future - Jones's " playground for billionaires" which will emerge if we leave things to the present generation of Tories?
Let's hope that back-room apparatchiks in all the parties concerned are working on this right now. We need a plan and a vision for 2020 which will come sooner than we think, even if it doesn't come sooner than that.
* I acknowledge there are Liberal Democrats who take a similar view, and probably Greens and Nationalists as well.
** The combined vote of Labour, Liberal Democrats and Greens at Copeland was 14 368, against the Conservatives' 13 748. Even this was no a progressive majority since UKIP polled 2 025, and not all the voters for the "progressive " parties would have stuck to an alliance. Some, even Liberal Democrats, would have switched to UKIP.