The UK Labour Party is facing its worst crisis in forty years, in a battle that mirrors events of 1981, when four of its stalwarts left Labour to form a centrist-left party, the Social Democratic Party. The terms of today's battle are similar to those at that time — the gap between the left and the right within the party.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was an unlikely candidate, forced by the resignation of former leader Ed Miliband, who failed to deliver victory at the 2015 general election. Miliband had emerged from the Tony Blair and Gordon Brown era, which was dominated by center ground politics, which many of the left-wing felt was a betrayal of their party.
There were three frontrunners in the ensuing election: Andy Burnham, former health spokesman, Yvette Cooper, shadow home secretary and Liz Kendall, shadow minister for care and older people. Left-wing Corbyn stood simply because he could — never expecting to win. Corbyn joined the race and was seen as a dark horse.
However, because of the voting system, a huge number of people joined the party as supporters and were able to cast a vote. Corbyn won by a landslide — supported by many left-wingers and the unions, who were tired of the party's move to the center ground under Blair and Brown.
In Corbyn, the party faithful saw a left-winger with strong views against capitalism, who was anti-war and particularly angered by Blair's decision to invade Iraq, as well as being strongly anti-nuclear weapons.
However, he did not enjoy the support of the majority of the Labour members of parliament. They were angered by Corbyn's lackluster support — during the In-Out referendum on the UK's membership of the EU — for remaining in Europe. He is known to be anti-EU, but towed the party's line, which was to remain.
He lost a vote of confidence within the parliamentary party, leading the latest leadership challenge which saw Corbyn win again, with an increased majority, plunging the party into chaos. In a column in the British Daily Mail newspaper, Blunkett wrote:
"The Labour Party under Corbyn is not electable. I am at a loss to understand what the 313,000 members who voted for him believe they can really achieve in the next three years, and what the eventual outcome will be, other than annihilation at a general election in 2020. They have shown that they are completely disconnected from the broad electorate and, when that happens to a party, it ceases to be relevant."
Meanwhile, former Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls told the Labour Party conference:
"I think the Labour party will survive, but I don't know whether the Labour party is going to survive and be a party that can realistically intend to be in Government. That all depends now on how Jeremy responds. That's what's happened over the last 18 months and if that trend caries on it's a catastrophe — but you can't rule that out."