Naked Politics Blogger
Jeremy Corbyn has undoubtably changed the Labour party in his first eight months of leadership. Long gone are the days of the jittery but rather lovable Ed Miliband, and in are the days of a far left leader with a strong mandate, but a very conflicted party.
With a landslide victory of 59.5% of first preference votes, Corbyn was handed the largest mandate ever won by a party leader. Labour appeared to have returned back to their roots of a left wing party, closely linked to trade unions. The party received huge momentum, rather fitting considering the group ‘Momentum’ was born from Corbyn’s election. Meanwhile, ’Corbyn effect’ was well received, with the membership growing from 201,293 in May 2015 to 388,407 in 2016. The promise of a new kind of honest politics was refreshing to hear, regardless of which party you align with.
Just days later, the problems that Corbyn faces today began to arise. As the candidate that received the fewest MP votes, it was likely that members to the right of the party would begin to rebel. The friction that Corbyn faces is far more than that. Instead of progress under Corbyn’s leadership, supporters were instead faced with a tedious reshuffle that seemed to make little progress to unite the party. Instead of becoming united, MPs resigned over the reshuffle and spoke out about their unhappiness with anti Trident Emily Thornberry being appointed as Shadow Defence Secretary. The party were named ‘a threat to national security’ by Defence Secretary Michael Fallon, and heckled regularly in the Commons.
Even more significant in Corbyn’s first eight months is his reluctance to whip his MPs on significant votes, with the Syria airstrike bill being the most crucial. The vote was timed after the Paris attacks and fear was high within the public and Parliament. Rather than Conservative MPs, it was Labour’s Hilary Benn that gave a strong speech urging Labour MPs to ‘confront the evil’ of IS; which was met with applause from all sides of the Commons. The motion passed with many Labour MPs voting against Corbyn in the free vote, highlighting Corbyn’s failure at uniting and controlling his party. The inability to muzzle Benn and his continuing presence in the Cabinet means that Corbyn is unlikely to be able to show his true leadership any time soon.
With the recent issues of Ian Duncan Smith’s resignation, the Conservatives divide over the EU and the Panama scandal, it may have been time for Corbyn to attack the Conservatives while they’re beginning to unravel. We know that Corbyn has promised a new type of politics, one that is honest and straight talking with no theatrics. This is not an article insulting Corbyn’s leadership, nor is it blaming him for the issues within the party. The new leader is stuck in a Catch 22 situation, being unable to whip his MPs due to being a rebel in his former days and promising open discussion with MPs. It is unfortunate that this form of politics is not suited for 2016, especially while Prime Minister David Cameron continues to deliver punchy one liners towards the party’s leader. With the recent issues the Conservative party face, it may be time for Corbyn to deliver some attacks of his own.
Unfortunately, Corbyn’s reluctance to play Punch and Judy in politics may be the party’s downfall. Much to the left’s disappointment, the momentum for Corbyn may just fall short of being enough to win them the next election.