Labour is losing the essential characteristics of a political partyby Jay Elwes / January 6, 2016 / Leave a comment
Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn leaves his home on January 5th to conduct a reshuffle of his top team after late-night talks the previous day ended without any announcement. ©Yui Mok/PA Wire/Press Association Images Read more: Junior doctors’ strike–will Corbyn miss an open goal? Read more: What should Labour’s economic policy look like? Last September, I spoke to Labour MPs and senior officials in the immediate aftermath of Jeremy Corbyn’s election as leader of the Labour Party. “What is he like?” I asked. Repeatedly the answer came, “I don’t know.” “Never met him.” One told me: “I think I spoke to him once at the All Party Parliamentary Group on Cycling.” When he became leader of the Opposition, Corbyn was an unknown, even to his own side. Really, he was not of the Labour Party at all. He’s hardly followed the Labour whip, he disagreed with large amounts of what the party did when last in government, and he’s spent most of his time surrounded by a small coterie of like-minded outsiders. How times change. Now, the outsider is in charge of the party, elevated to that position by a mandate that he and his supporters have repeatedly characterised as substantial. But it is nothing of the sort—he was put there by the votes of approximately 1/160th of the British electorate. These people are his tribe: a disparate outer group of activists and protestors, whose cloud of various concerns has little in common with traditional Labour thinking, and almost nothing in common with the central priorities of Labour’s MPs. For evidence of the gap between the leader and his parliamentary party, look no further than the reshuffle. Pat McFadden, the Shadow Minister for Europe, got the push for disagreeing with Corbyn’s response to the Paris terrorist attacks. Ian Austin, the Labour MP for Dudley, called the sacking “vindictive and stupid.” Michael Dugher, Labour MP for Barnsley East, also lost his position in the shadow cabinet. In response, he changed his Twitter profile to read: “MP for Barnsley East. Sacked by Jeremy Corbyn for too much straight talking, honest politics.” Disgusted, three of Corbyn’s shadow cabinet also resigned. And remember, these are the people who are meant to be on his side. The overall feeling is that things aren’t going well. Opinion polls show that his standing with the electorate is way below that of Ed Miliband at the equivalent point in the last electoral cycle. But worse is the sense that Corbyn is causing long-term damage to Labour. It is losing the essential characteristics of a political party, now incapable of putting up even the weakest opposition to Government policy. It has been taken over by a narrow sectional tribe, and is led by a man who has never really been a politician. He is incapable of achieving the sort of internal party compromises that underpin all political activity. Rather than win people round or accommodate differences of opinion, he has simply sacked them. The longer he stays in situ, the more damage will be done. Thanks to Jeremy Corbyn and his 1/160th, Britain is now a country without a political Opposition. He, and his tribe, are leading the party to disaster.