Then there were these polling figures of Labour Party members. Some 65% of them think Jeremy is doing well as party leader, while only 38% of those polled believe he'll ever make Number 10, and, controversially, 56% say taking a principled line is the correct way to do politics, even if it means losing elections. You can imagine that caused a few feathers to be spat down Portcullis House.
There's no use pretending there aren't divisions. And divisions, I'm afraid, are inevitable in large parties. Not because we're full on ornery b'stards who factionalise for kicks, but because both the big Britain-wide parties are agglomerates of different interests. The Tories aren't simply the party of business and Labour the party of workers, both are sectionalised by occasional tension, occasional competition between types of business, industrial sectors, professions, status, occupational groups. Behind each set of ideas or policy agendas duking it out in committee rooms and association bars are interests they correspond to. It's not that shadowy cabals sit around and think up stuff that helps them (though, of course, this happens too, which is why a lot of corporates and super rich sugardaddies flood think tanks with cash), but rather at some point down the line an idea is caught up with or pushes against certain interests that structure British politics. For example, Liam Byrne's economics appear neutral and technocratic, but implementing them would meet stiff resistance by sections of business, despite offering a programme that business-as-a-whole stands to benefit from. I digress. The divisions we see between Jeremy and his majority, and the PLP and their minority in the party likewise map onto those competing interests, and they're not going to go away. The job for the leadership - any leadership - is to manage them, and for any challengers to be aware of how they balance out and ride them when they feel it's opportune.
This in mind, how then are the, for want of a better phrase, - Corbynites - to be understood? I think, more or less, there are two broad groups. There were the members and long-time supporters that voted Jeremy in the leadership campaign. These are 'party people', comrades who are Labour to their marrow, folks who understand the party's culture, understand the party is a coalition, and understand that if we're going to get anywhere we have to pull together as a collective and pool our talents as well as our energies. Everyone who supported Jeremy that I know in real life come from this group.
The second group, and the real topic of this post, are the more visible and more "enthusiastic" Corbyn supporters. The ones who enjoy trolling the likes of Mike Gapes and other standard bearers of the ancien regime. The ones who launch change.org petitions against recalcitrant MPs, and festoon their social media with markers of Corbyn authenticity. There's a lot of them, and a good chunk have joined the party. Yet in the main, their Labour support begins and ends with Jeremy. I see the "if Jeremy is toppled I'm leaving the party" refrain everyday, give or take. The party and the movement isn't the repository of progressive social change, a single man is. Ironic considering this 'great man' approach is a million miles away from Jeremy's own politics. They swell constituency membership lists, but tend not to get involved in meetings or campaigns, preferring to keep their activism, such as it is, online. As a whole, they tend to be raw and new to politics - hence why they share analogous characteristics with cybernats and UKIP supporters one tends to bump into online: a black and white view of the world, faith in one or two leading figures, scathing responses to naysayers, and dare I also say an assumed victimhood?
It's the latter group, of course, that attract the headlines and the moaning in the papers, as if sending a few nasty tweets was akin to getting a midnight visit from the GPU. Yet it is entirely explicable and, perhaps, avoidable.
Let's have another lesson from history. Political radicalism, of whatever stripe, takes root and puts on mass weight when large numbers of people are excluded from political process. Hamas, for example, owes its support amongst the imprisoned population of Gaza because, whatever you think of them, they portray themselves and have a record of being Israel's most implacable foe. That wouldn't be possible without Israel sitting on them. Why did the Provos assume a republican socialist character in Northern Ireland? Because militancy and armed struggle was perceived by the Catholic minority to be the only language the British state understood. Why did the early mass workers' parties of Western Europe adopt Marxist and revolutionary politics? Had the exclusion from official politics of the proletarian mass have something to do with it?
Corbynmania finds its ultimate source not in the whiz-bang campaigning skills of Jeremy's leadership team, but the exclusion of members and the perceived interests of working class people from having any meaningful influence over the direction of the party since at least His Blairness took over in 1994. For example, trade union exec after trade union exec lined up behind Jeremy because they remember being taken for cash cows and little else at best, or potential enemies at worst. The truth of the matter is Blair's centralisation of the party institutionalised an organised distrust of the members. It was the PLP who had the nation's pulse, not the activists who, being "real people" themselves, presumably mix with "real people" daily. And as lines for directing policy from the constituencies were shut down, and candidate selections were manipulated and circumvented for the benefit of favoured folk, and, let's be honest, right-wing policies adopted on grounds of supposed electoral expediency, a resentment built in the party and the trade union movement against all of this. The initial offerings in the Labour leadership contest, followed by the cack-handed debacle of the tax credit vote catalysed the resentment and burst open the repressive bonds that had hitherto held it in check. We know the rest. In hindsight, is it any surprise Jeremy trounced all-comers?
This brings us back to the poll. These numbers are being fed by a perception that, despite winning the leadership, there are plenty in the PLP carrying on in the old way, of trying to exclude and thwart the newly empowered membership. The more certain MPs carry on, the more they're making a rod for their own back. That resentment that took 20 years to fester is still there, and many Corbynites feel it keenly. And it's not a battle our PLP refuseniks can win. I know what the calculation is. Many couldn't give two hoots if tens of thousands of new party members decamped if they manage to toss Jeremy out of a window. They suppose that the potential for deselection is lessened. True, but it is also a possibility - one that had grown increasingly probable thanks to the foundation of Momentum - that many raw Corbynites are integrated into the party and become "proper" party people. On the one hand they're not going to look too kindly upon MPs seeking reselection in redrawn constituencies if they've been vocal in their opposition or seen to have undermined Jeremy. And second, by virtue of their behaviour, a stab-in-the-back myth could be persuasively powerful in mobilising a winning majority behind a leftist successor. No wonder there are those on the centre and right of the party who keep their mutterings to themselves and think active opposition is most unwise.