The urgent priority for everyone concerned with progressive politics and social justice in the UK is to work to prevent the Labour Party splitting into two. People need to be hard-headed and pragmatic. (There will be plenty of time in the years to come for the arguments currently raging as to who is to blame for the current crisis.)
The Labour Party has long been an alliance of disparate views. The first-past-the-post system makes such an alliance essential. As happened in the 1980s when the SDP split from Labour, a divided left guarantees Tory rule.
At the moment a split seems almost inevitable. On one side are 75% of Labour MPs and the entire Establishment. On the other there is, I believe, a large majority of Labour members and, it appears, Labour voters. A YouGov/Times poll today shows that 54% of Labour voters do not want Jeremy Corbyn to resign.
The reality is that neither side can win outright. Corbyn cannot function as a leader of the party if his MPs have no confidence in him, whatever the members may want. However, it is equally true that the MPs cannot demand a different leader, because the members insist on Corbyn.
I can only see one solution to this impasse. I propose that Corbyn stands down and the MPs guarantee that John McDonnell will receive enough nominations to go into the leadership contest and that they will accept his leadership if he wins.
If McDonnell is prepared to put himself forward, I doubt if Corbyn would stand in the way of such an arrangement as it has never been about him personally but about the policies. I would expect most members would accept this compromise.
The fact that their candidate for the leadership, Angela Eagle, is almost certain to lose to Corbyn should concentrate MPs’ minds and make them realise that it is in their interest to agree to this proposal in order to keep the party together.
Furthermore, having McDonnell rather than Corbyn as leader substantially answers the MPs publicly stated objections to Corbyn. They have not raised any differences on policy with Corbyn (although clearly some exist); they have attacked Corbyn’s competence and related issues. McDonnell was generally considered to have had an effective campaign for Remain; he is a more authoritative figure than Corbyn and an effective communicator.
This proposal would not be a “victory” for either side but any such “victory” would be hollow as it would necessarily lead to the disaster of the party splitting.
Every possible effort need to be made now to save the Labour Party as a force in UK politics and this proposal may be the only way to do that.