It’s the dilemma facing millions of moderate Labour voters: can they in good conscience support their party this time around without endorsing Jeremy Corbyn? This is no mere academic puzzler. Many are horrified at the transformation of their party from Europe’s most successful social democratic movement into a glorified protest group, and one with more than its fair share of cranks.
Labour’s failure to come to grips with the anti-Semitism now commonplace in its ranks is politically ill-considered, not to say reprehensible. But for those drawn to Labour for its history of fighting racism and discrimination, it is another indication that this is no longer their party.
This is an election of quandaries. Should voters betrayed by the Liberal Democrats over tuition fees back the party as the best chance of heading off a hard Brexit? Do Scotland’s beleaguered Labourites have to rally behind the Tories’ Ruth Davidson to stop the SNP pushing for another divisive independence referendum?
The question of whether to contribute a vote towards taking Mr Corbyn to 10 Downing Street is the most challenging of all. He represents a Labour Party alien to the country and unrecognisable from the upbeat, optimistic insurgency that swept Britain 20 years ago.
But what about those members of the parliamentary party who have made their opposition to Corbyn known? Take John Woodcock, MP for Barrow and Furness. He is asking constituents for their vote on a pledge that “I will not countenance ever voting to make Jeremy Corbyn Britain’s prime minister”. Voters in his seat can plausibly put their cross next to his name with confidence that they are returning a Labour MP and not a Labour PM. The same can be said of any number of parliamentarians, from Leicester West’s Liz Kendall to Edinburgh South’s Ian Murray. These are the centrists who have rejected the far-Left takeover of their party and who surely ought not to be punished for it.
By withholding a vote from Labour, those affronted by its lurch into extremism can take a stand against obnoxious fringe politics. In doing so, however, they hurl themselves into yet another moral equation. Is it enough merely to reject Corbyn, or do those who see his ideology for what it is have an obligation to ensure that he is replaced? Voting for parties other than Labour will certainly achieve the former but arguably will make the latter more difficult to pull off. The more sensible Labour MPs who keep their seats in this election, the greater the chance that their party can oust Corbyn and begin the long, painful return to political relevance.
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