THE trickle of career Labour politicians seeking bravely to plunge their knives into Jeremy Corbyn has become a deluge. The latest batch has been waiting, of course, for a safe time to do so. Say what you like about John McTernan, the Blairite former spin doctor with a longer losing streak than Zippy Chippy, he can never be accused of inconsistency or uncertainty in his beliefs.

McTernan has espoused a hostile attitude towards Corbyn since the pride of Islington was first mooted as a possible candidate for the leadership of the party. The same can’t be said for many others who have been weighing up their future career options before getting their chibs out.

The two latest high-profile Labour people to have publicly backed Owen Smith’s challenge to Corbyn are Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London and Kezia Dugdale, leader of the party in Scotland. Ms Dugdale, perhaps, can be forgiven for her tardiness in expressing her preference. She’s had a frenetic summer during which she announced her engagement and embarked on a course on political leadership at a US college along with a curious assortment of Holyrood’s jaicket-holding class.

Both Dugdale and Sadiq dolefully advanced their carefully choreographed reasons for their backing of Owen Smith. Khan simply doesn’t think that Labour can win an election under Corbyn’s stewardship while Dugdale feels that Smith can “unite our party and move us on from the divisions that exist under the current leadership of Jeremy Corbyn.” Like the majority of others who have turned against Corbyn, neither chose to highlight any particular policy of the UK leader with which they disagreed; nor did either of them flag up anything resembling a new policy by Smith.

In rejecting Corbyn, Dugdale and Khan exhibited the same lack of self-awareness that has undermined the credibility of the entire Get Corbyn campaign within the Westminster parliamentary Labour group. Did it ever occur to Khan that one big reason why Corbyn might not win the next UK election is because people like him and the 142 rebel Labour MPs have joined forces with the Tories in attacking their own leader?

Indeed, the levels of abuse and hostility, bordering on hatred, that Corbyn has faced from among the Labour group at Westminster has eclipsed anything that the Tories have hurled in his direction. If the Tories are the Nasty Party what does this make Labour’s pack of jackals: The Odious Party?

If it has now become impossible for Corbyn to win a Westminster election it’s not because of his “hard left” policies or the universal approval of another reactionary Oxford Tory in Number 10. It’s because Corbyn and the Labour movement have been betrayed by a collection of superannuated politicians who have failed to understand what is happening in their own constituencies and who are worried about their careers, their pensions and how long they can ride the Westminster gravy train.

I keep hearing that Corbyn is incompetent as a leader. Yet, how can anyone tell? He has had no chance to lead. Instead, he’s had to contend with the overweening arrogance of Hilary Benn and other Tony Blair acolytes who thought that they would take a brave stand against their leader by voting with the Tories to permit the remote-control bombing of a Third World country.

And you have to laugh at Dugdale’s reasons for knifing her boss. Her inference that Corbyn can’t unite the party is a bizarre one. Labour’s Scottish leader was all smiles and hearty handshakes when welcoming Corbyn to Glasgow last year at a Labour fundraiser. All that’s happened since is that she has retreated to a safe distance – behind the coats of her Westminster colleagues – and then lobbed her little stone. The leadership course that she attended during the summer must have been held at Walt Disney World. If anyone stands accused of dividing the party it’s Dugdale and the dismal Westminster 142.

The Conservative government ought to have been reeling over Brexit and been thoroughly examined on continuing low wages; the ongoing culture of entitlement in our banks and their links to individuals and firms mentioned in the Panama Papers. But they have been left untouched because of a squalid little leadership coup in the Labour Party.

At this point, it’s worth reminding ourselves how we got here. Jeremy Corbyn was victorious in his leadership campaign because his three rivals for the top job couldn’t muster a single coherent policy between them. Collectively, they stood for nothing; unless you count a vanilla portfolio of wan and watery catch-phrases possessing all the radical impact of a Classic FM radio presenter. Corbyn stands for something. Furthermore, many of his ex-parliamentary Labour critics have either amassed fortunes on the back of their toils in the service of the People’s Party or have pursued careers helping other very rich people protect and augment theirs.

Writing in the Daily Record yesterday, the former Labour minister, Brian Wilson, said that “a Labour Party with no realistic prospect of forming a Government is of no use to anyone”. Perhaps so, but a Labour Party that has, for many decades shown itself incapable of reversing the anti-union laws of Thatcherism or of stimulating recovery in the industrial heartlands that Thatcher laid waste to is of no use to anyone either.

The Corbynites are mocked for suggesting that winning elections is a sideshow. Yet those who do so fail to acknowledge that the next election and probably the one after that have been rendered side-shows, Tory cakewalks, by their own disloyalty. They have done the Tories’ jobs for them.

It may indeed take another decade in the electoral wilderness before Labour can think seriously again about power.

By then, the full extent of the Tories’ social policies and the resultant widening of the gap between rich and poor will have become even more acute. By then too, hopefully, Labour will be rid of its 142 Westminster careerists and be in a healthier state to stand up for those on the receiving end.

And by then too, the struggle for an independent Scotland will have been won and the revived version of a proper Labour Party north of the Border can compete for power again.