Even after the big political surprises of 2016, few political commentators are suggesting the June election is anything other than a foregone conclusion. The stories have already been written: Tory gains at the expense of Labour, helped in no small measure by the collapse of UKIP; a Lib Dem revival of sorts; continued SNP dominance in Scotland (with the Conservatives cementing their place as the main unionist force); and a drubbing for Her Majesty’s Opposition.
The question therefore turns to what such an outcome means for British politics, and for the left in particular, after June 8th. What state will the Labour party be in?1 Will it still be the best vehicle for progressive politics? In recent years, the Labour party has debated internally what it is that it stands for, effectively rehashing the ‘Clause Four’ debate.
After June, we could well need a ‘Clause One’ debate: can Labour still ‘organise and maintain in Parliament and in the country’ – the whole country – a political Labour party? Can it still, in any meaningful sense, give effect to the principles it stands for at a national level?
Part of the answer will be determined by who continues to represent the party in parliament, where it has representation in the country, and ultimately who controls it going forward. This paper examines what the composition of the Parliamentary Labour Party might be after the election, based on a number of hypothetical defeat scenarios. Of course, the exact composition will depend on local as well as national factors, turnout, and swings to and from minor parties as well as between Labour and the Conservatives, but it is worth examining these various hypothetical scenarios to consider what might happen for two reasons. First, as an added dimension to considerations of where progressives should prioritise resources in the run-up to the election; and second, to begin planning for the immense challenge of rebuilding a progressive majority that will present itself in the event of a landslide defeat.
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