By Oscar Clifford-Smith
In these anti-establishment times, Jeremy Corbyn is exactly the type of person you’d want leading your party. An English adaption of Bernie Sanders who has stuck to his progressive values throughout his long career on the backbench. The guy is a bloody vegetarian! He even wears clothes his mum knitted him. Meanwhile, Theresa May is wearing £1000 leather trousers while negotiating weapons shipments to countries that behead gay people. The contrast couldn’t be more apparent.
Twice Corbyn was elected in a landslide by Labour party members. If there was another leadership election, he’d win emphatically once more. Since taking over the leadership, the membership of the party has swollen to over 500000 people. While this sounds great, it’s not all tea and scones for the Dear Leader. Recently, the party lost the seat of Copeland in a by-election by 2000 votes. The constituency had been held by Labour since 1935 (under the name Copeland and Whitehaven). To add further insult, the last time an opposition has lost a seat midterm was 1982. Do I even need to mention Labour is trailing the nastiest incarnation of the Nasty party by 18 points? On almost every barometer, Corbyn is in trouble. So why are the Labour party getting a bollocking from every single direction?
Ever since Gordon Brown’s defeat in 2010, the left of the party has sought further influence within a Labour they believed was under the control of the Blairites and a failed neoliberal agenda. Following a rule change under Ed Miliband which allowed the public to become a ‘registered supporter’ for a paltry £3, party membership swelled. So in 2015, Corbyn was the only candidate that stood for crazy, far out ideas like a fair economic model and an end to crushing austerity. For an engaged, new membership, this was a refreshing alternative to the Daleks in suits that also happened to be running.
Now in 2017, we have Labour party that is so divided that it’s electoral prospects are terminal. Following Brexit, no one is completely sure what the party stands for. Much of Labour’s traditional heartland voted to leave the EU, but 216 out of their 230 MPs declared support for Remain. Since then, 4/5th’s of Labour MP’s voted in support of triggering article 50. During the campaign Jeremy Corbyn wasn’t even a prominent campaigner, shying away from appearing at events with Remain Conservatives. The man even found the time to duck off for a holiday.
Arguably more divisive than Brexit however, is the fundamental problem of having a man leading a party that doesn’t want to be led. In 2015, Corbyn won the largest mandate of any party leader. However, he only had 14% support from his own MP’s. Since Brexit, it’s got way worse. Most of the shadow cabinet has resigned or been sacked. The leader is undermined at every corner. The Copeland by-election was triggered by the cowardly resignation of never Corbyn MP Jamie Reed. Furthermore, New Labour architect Peter Mandelson recently declared “I work every single day in some small way to bring forward the end of his tenure in office”. This madness is succinctly described by fictitious British news reporter Jonathan Pie – “Corbyn has been stabbed in the back so many times he’s like a fucking colander”. The elected members of the party and the registered supporters are so far apart, they now represent incompatible ideologies. Labour MP’s are behaving like they want the party to be annihilated, so they can regroup, and continue with the Tory-lite, pro-bank policies of Blair.
On the death of Margaret Thatcher, Tony Blair reflected that his Government should “…build on some of the things she had done rather than reverse them. Many of the things she said, even though they pained people like me on the left… had a certain creditability.” It’s quite symbolic that the man who got Labour elected after 18 years in the wilderness did so by accepting Thatcherism and abandoning certain principles. Blairite pragmatism seems to be ingrained in a vast majority Labour MP’s. They are so beholden to it, they are willing to discredit a leader and with it, any chance of victory. Seems like an odd way to be pragmatic.
Theresa May knows Her Majesty’s Most Loyal Opposition are the most disloyal and divided they’ve ever been. With the triggering of article 50 imminent, there’s a good chance the Government will attempt to call an election. The left that Corbyn represents is no longer reflected by Labour MPs. The party has changed. Unless MPs or the leader do, they are cactus.