John Harris

Journalist & Author

Whoever the leader is, Labour may never recover from this crisis | John Harris

This is a 20th-century party adrift in a new reality – its social foundations in trade unions and heavy industry either vanished or in deep retreat

The Labour party must currently be thinking collective thoughts akin to the old card player’s term: Who dealt this mess anyway? More than 80% of its MPs are now formally estranged from not just the leader, but from the 40 other MPs who support him. In a cruel twist of fate, the spectre of the sainted Tony Benn hangs over the whole grim drama: he was the guru of the leftwing anti-EU position we now call Lexit, but also the man who endlessly pushed the idea that activists should have the whip hand over parliamentarians.

For all his commendable policy positions Jeremy Corbyn has been a pretty awful leader. But in all its fundamentals, the state of his party is hardly his fault. To blame him is to fall for the same delusion whereby a supposed challenger – Angela Eagle, Tom Watson, Dan Jarvis – can put the party on the road to recovery. The truth, unpalatable to some but which is surely obvious, is that Labour is in the midst of a longstanding and possibly terminal malaise, and now finds itself facing two equally unviable options.

Related: Labour must unite and face the country, or die | Lisa Nandy

Related: We need a second referendum. The consequences of Brexit are too grave | David Lammy

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