Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Columnist

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Columnist

Article excerpt

Byline: PAUL LINFORD

AT the end of last week's column, I posed the question whether a victory for Jeremy Corbyn in the forthcoming Labour leadership election might ultimately lead to a realignment of British politics.

It is no longer a matter for idle speculation. It was reported this week that some firms of bookmakers are already paying out on a Corbyn victory, and when the bookies do that, it usually only means one thing.

So what might happen to the Labour Party if, as now seems reasonably likely, it chooses Mr Corbyn and thereby renders itself unelectable as a national party of government? Would it soldier on as the old Liberal Party did in the 1920s and 30s, no longer a genuine contender for power but still a significant presence at Westminster with 100-plus MPs. Or would it simply split in two? That is, after all, what happened in 1981, when two North East Labour MPs, Mike Thomas and Ian Wrigglesworth, helped masterminded the launch of the breakaway Social Democratic Party in response to Labour's leftward drift.

And two of Mr Corbyn's leadership rivals, Yvette Cooper and Andy Burnham, have warned over the past fortnight of a potential for a fresh split in the party should the left-winger be elected.

A more objective observer, the former Sunderland South MP Chris Mullin, has however played down the prospect.

"The good news for Corbyn is that, unlike in the 80s, defections are unlikely... I know of no one who thinks an SDP mark II would be a good idea, and the Liberal Democrats are not likely to be an attractive option for the foreseeable future," he wrote recently. I have no doubt that, as things stand, Mr Mullin is right about this. I don't know anyone who thinks an SDP mark II would be a good idea either.

And as for the Liberal Democrats, while they may now be heading rapidly leftwards under new leader Tim Farron, it may a very long time before the voting public forgets their cohabitation with the Conservatives.

And yet...something tells me that serious politicians like Liz Kendall, Chuka Umunna and Dan Jarvis are not going to resign themselves to spending the rest of their careers on the opposition benches. …

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