Yesterday, the Labour Party voted resoundingly to elect Jeremy Corbyn, a veteran left winger whom many had thought would be the first to drop out in what has been a leadership race characterised by party infighting and early dropouts. In fact, 14 of the 36 Labour MPs (one of which was Corbyn himself) who endorsed him initially did not even support his policies. When those who made the endorsements were branded ‘morons‘ by Tony Blair’s former advisor John McTernan, Margaret Beckett, former deputy leader actually conceded that she was ‘one of them‘. What surprised me was not only the fact that Corbyn won in the first round alone, but the fact that no other candidate got even 20% of the vote. Three things became immediately apparent to me upon hearing these results.
The Parliamentary Labour Party is radically out of touch with its constituents. Not only that, but past Labour leaders such as Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, and Neil Kinnock have all spoken out against the party being led by Corbyn. Furthermore, both Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall have decided to reside in the backbenches. It appears Labour MP Simon Danczuk and others will have a hard time supporting him too. Considering Jeremy Corbyn beat all the other candidates in CLP nominations, I am sure many MPs will now have misgivings about how suited they are in working under this radically reformed party. In fact, there have been reports that a group of MPs have already assembled in opposition, having foreseen a Corbyn victory. Dubbed “Labour for the Common Good”, it consists of the ‘moderates’ of the party who feel it has lost its “political and intellectual edge”.
Labour totally misjudged the sentiment of its members. As previously mentioned, high profile Labour figures of old have warned against his appointment as leader. It could even be said that Tony Blair’s piece imploring the party not to vote for Corbyn actually backfired (just read the comments). You need only know that Corbyn has apologised for New Labour’s position on the Iraq War (as well as rebelling over 500 times within the party) to recognise that he was the ‘anti establishment’ candidate that figures tried and failed to stop. I can see why Tony Blair in particular is concerned about the events of yesterday.
Labour has now been split into two halves. While I am sure that under his leadership there will be pleas for unity, it simply cannot be denied that Jeremy Corbyn leads a deeply divided Labour party. How can someone who has so frequently gone against the will of his own party call for its unity? Tom Watson, the deputy leader of the party, is diametrically opposed to Corbyn on Trident, the EU and NATO. While I welcome healthy debate within any party, I feel that with so many so differences and so few similarities between members, it’s hard to really recognise what Labour stands for, and if anything that will be the big issue that the party will endure during these next 5 years.
While many people will continue to debate whether the party has positioned itself in the right direction for the future, no one will contest the belief that what happened yesterday has irrevocably changed the course of the Labour party. This is a new age of party politics which promises to be full of intrigue, whether it be for better or for worse.