Labour lacks a killer instinct -- and it could kill Labour

For Labour, you’d imagine nothing would top 10pm on May 7th as the worst moment of the year. The first time those exit poll numbers appeared, the moment you realised the extent of your defeat -- surely it couldn’t get worse than that?

It’s funny you should ask…

Right now, the Labour Party resembles a group of half-drunk teenagers standing at the cliffs of Beachy Head, pretending to throw each other over the side. The only problem is that some of them may have the lemming-like tendencies to actually do it.

None of this is Jeremy Corbyn’s fault. His party should never have put him in the position where he could end up as its leader -- a prospect that so alarms them they’re already plotting an immediate move to depose him should the unthinkable happen.

Ignore Mr Corbyn’s politics for a moment. There is much about the man to admire. Unlike his leadership rivals, he hasn’t chased support with embarrassing desperation. He knows his views do not chime with many in the country, or even his own party. But he sets them out, and sticks to them -- a conviction politician in the Margaret Thatcher mould, though one looking in the opposite direction.

And you can understand why his campaign has appealed to so many Labour activists -- he openly discusses his violent opposition to the Conservatives, his horror at austerity measures and benefit cuts, while some of his rivals make suggestions that might not seem out of place at David Cameron’s Cabinet table.

Such is the level of chaos at the top of Labour, you’d be forgiven for thinking they want a Corbyn leadership. Otherwise, why allow him to be the only candidate to vote against benefit cuts, making the other three abstain.

Jeremy Corbyn is on the ballot paper because the Labour party lacks a killer instinct. It stopped them getting rid of Ed Miliband before the last election, and it could yet see Mr Corbyn lead more than 200 MPs who very clearly don’t want him in charge.

He is there because enough of them thought it was “unfair” to exclude him just because his views appealed to only a handful of MPs. People who would never serve under Jeremy Corbyn nominated him for the leadership. That is something the Conservative Party would never do.

True enough, the Tories had their wilderness years after 1997. But their ruthless streak was always there. It pushed out Margaret Thatcher when she became a liability, and stopped Iain Duncan Smith from ever getting close to fighting an election.

Tony Blair was the last -- perhaps the only -- Labour leader in the past forty years to appropriate the Tories’ quest for power. But rolling him out to warn of the risks of a lurch to the left could be counter-productive. He may have won them three elections, but there’s little love for Mr Blair among Labour’s activists -- it could even make them more determined to vote for Mr Corbyn.

Now there are calls on two of the other three candidates to pull out, and unite behind a “Stop Corbyn” campaign, presumably Andy Burnham. The egos involved suggest that’s unlikely.

What’s more likely is that Mr Burnham will pick up enough second preference votes to see off the challenge.

That won’t happen until mid-September -- there are many more weeks yet for Labour to waste on internal arguments, meaningless to most voters.

Even if Mr Corbyn returns to the backbenches, his campaign has highlighted the depths of Labour’s crisis, and the distance it has to travel if it’s to ever return to power.