Labour is losing the essential characteristics of a political partyby Jay Elwes / January 6, 2016 / Leave a comment
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.”