Last week I wrote a blogpost here, in which I called for the Labour Party to unite under the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn (I make the assumption - which is widely held - that Corbyn will be elected again when the result of the leadership election is announced on 24 September).
Over 10,000 people have read my blogpost in the last week. A completely unprecedented response for me. It is understandable that people are interested in the subject; the alternative is impotence of the left and no prospect of defeating the Tories for the foreseeable future.
By no means everyone agrees with what I wrote. I had hundreds of responses which fall into three roughly equal groups.
One group say variants of “NO, NEVER, we can never unify with those Trotskyite bastards”.
Another group say along the lines of “NO, NEVER, we can never unify with those Blairite bastards”.
A third group say they like the idea of unity. However, this group is divided between those who think it a good idea but impossible to achieve and those who - like me - can see it is very hard to achieve but who recognise that it is essential and are determined, even desperate, to find a way.
Everyone who cares about the future of the Labour Party needs to be thinking about this now, it cannot wait until 24 September. What happens immediately after the announcement will have profound consequences. Corbyn must use his victory speech to reach out meaningfully to his opponents in the party. The major figures among his opponents, including Owen Smith, Hilary Benn and Angela Eagle must call for unity and agree to serve under Corbyn and fight the real enemy, the Tories.
There is deep bitterness and a profound lack of trust throughout the Labour Party. If this is to be healed it will require wisdom and courage from many individuals. Those at the top of the party can take the first necessary steps to healing on 24 September.
Corbyn should deal head on and in a genuinely conciliatory way, with all the main criticisms of him. These are not matters of policy (Smith has largely accepted Corbyn’s policies except for Trident, on which there has been a free vote). They primarily concern his leadership style. One much repeated criticism is that his own shadow ministers have found it difficult to gain access to speak to him. This is a real issue and it should and can be dealt with.
Another example, is that some of Corbyn’s critics allege he has a “problem with women”. This may or may not be true but the mere appearance that it may be true is damaging. Why not offer to appoint one of his critics to a senior role - with good access to him - to show that he takes this issue seriously?
A huge responsibility will lie on 24 September with the most senior Labour MPs who have opposed Corbyn. They all say that their primary aim is to defeat the Tories and to have a Labour Government. The only way they can demonstrate that they are genuine about that and not more concerned about endlessly waging the internal war in the party, is to immediately accept the result of the leadership election and agree to serve again under Corbyn.
The senior MPs need to be pragmatic. They need to show statesmanship. They need to distance themselves for the 10 or so MPs who have a tunnel-visioned ideological hatred of Corbyn and who will never be reconciled to him as leader and who will continue forever to do everything they can to undermine him.
On 24 September, the Labour Party will face an existential crisis. If it splits in some form or if it is plunged into further internal strife, so that the election will have solved nothing, then it will be a disaster for all Labour supporters and will delight the Tories.
Labour must learn from the discipline of the Tories, who currently present a united front despite their recent very deep divisions, both political and personal.
Unity of the Labour Party will be difficult to achieve but it is essential to achieve, so a way must be found. It will need wisdom and courage at all levels of the party but the first necessary steps must be taken on 24 September by Corbyn himself and the senior Labour MPs who opposed him.