Labour is in many ways clueless, disunited and perhaps in terminal decline. Whatever happens in the by-elections, it faces another crisis in the mayoral elections in May: the Tories are now favourites to win in Birmingham and there are worries even about Corbyn’s former rival Andy Burnham in Manchester.Last summer I reviewed Engel's England, in which Matthew Engel visited all 39 English counties.
He has been on his travels again, visiting the Labour campaign in Stoke-on-Trent Central for the Financial Times. He found it in an almost comically suspicious of him:
Even before I left home, Chris Lee, the Labour party’s press officer in the Stoke-on-Trent Central constituency, made it clear that the Financial Times would not be allowed to interview their candidate in this month’s by-election. Nor could I accompany their canvassers on the streets.
On arrival, the restrictions were tightened. I could not talk to any other Labour members either. Asked if it was OK to speak to anyone at all in Stoke-on-Trent, Lee seemed to think it over before concluding that might be a problem.He need not have worried. The Labour campaign is also inept, so these restrictions soon fell apart.
Engel also offers an interesting analysis of the reasons for this long-term decline, quoting Mark Seddon:
“Within the party the soft middle-class drifted away over Iraq. The hard left stayed and fought their corner,” says Seddon. Thus, a decade later, the left had the numbers in the constituencies to elect Corbyn."