Monday, March 20, 2017

Labour - the new Jacobites?

Even today there are still people who assert that the rightful monarchs of Scotland and England are the heirs to James II & VII, the current heir being Franz, Duke of Bavaria. From time to time they can be found toasting the "rightful" king. A few have even popped up outside Parliament to protest the validity of all monarchs and laws passed since 1688. (I would not be surprised if a hard-line Eurosceptic had advanced this argument as a means to get us out of the European Union.) I've even seen opinion polls that ask if the Queen should be succeeded, either upon her death or in a separate Scotland, by a Stuart heir. Looking back to the heyday of Jacobitism in the first half of the 18th there is much to romanticise. It was a cause that had a lot of popular support and much hope that the silent masses would rise up at the right moment. Its followers were convinced it was right. It could well have succeeded but for events beyond their control. But it didn't succeed. And for two and a half centuries the cause has been little more than a romance of history with only a few present-day followers.

How long before the Labour Party goes the same way?

The idea that one of the UK's major political parties could collapse into complete irrelevance may seem incredible. After all the death of parties has been predicted before but both the Conservatives and Labour have come back after prolonged periods in opposition when many commentators and even some leading members began to wonder if the party would ever return to government. The Liberal Party had a more prolonged crash but managed to convert to and survive as a third party. But Labour seems to be in almost terminal decline:
It has taken batterings from all sides and seen heartlands evaporate. Its ratings suggest something bigger than mere short-term problems are afoot. Worse still it seems unable and unwilling to even try and break out of its mess.

That's not for want of trying by some Labour members. But it seems that the Corbynistas just will not be shifted, no matter what happens. And although Corbyn is clearly a contributor to Labour's problems they didn't start under him - they go back to Blair. The party members are bitterly divided - see YouGov: A tale of two parties – what we learned from our Labour membership surveys. One side seems unable to turn things around. The other seems unwilling to do so.

At what point is the Labour Party going to become a hopeless lost cause, which may still stir people's hearts but which is recognised as an utterly impractical prospect? The Jacobites' last real chance of winning power came in 1745. The last serious plan for a restoration came in 1759. But the last direct descendant of James II & VII, "Henry IX & I", still asserted his claim until his death in 1807. The Labour Party might carry on for many years as a shell of what it once was, with successive hard left leaders still hoping. But when will the moderates give up trying to recapture the party and turn it around? Is there a point of no return?

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