It is hard to believe that there are still six weeks left of Labour’s leadership contest. It is already two months since MPs’ nominations for Jeremy Corbyn and Owen Smith were published—and more than that since mass defections from Corbyn’s Shadow Cabinet begun.
Last month, Labour’s National Executive Committee ruled that Corbyn will be on the leadership ballot without needing the nominations of Labour MPs. This decision has strengthened his chances: a large majority of Labour MPs voted “no confidence” in Corbyn in June but this ruling enables him to bypass their votes—he now needs only the approval of the membership, thought to be largely on his side.
The NEC had also ruled that the Party’s new members, thought to favour Corbyn even more than the membership in general, would not be able to vote in the election. But this decision was overturned in the high court this week.
All of this means that Corbyn is seen as the firm favourite. But will his MPs put up with a leader they don’t like, or is the party set to split down the middle? A panel of contributors share their views.
Too much sentiment
Philip Collins is an Associate Editor of Prospect
Labour is a party in thrall to its own history. It is a sentimental party, fond of its monuments and its mythology and usually the past hangs heavy around its present. The Labour party needs to split. The supporters of Jeremy Corbyn see themselves as the vanguard of a social movement to replace capitalism. The party is, by irreconcilable contrast, a party committed to reform through Parliament. These two parts should not be in the same party; the coalition makes no sense.
Yet the sorry examples of 1931 and 1981 stand in the way. In 1931 Ramsay Macdonald led a minority of his ministers into a National Government dominated by the Tories and established the tenacious Labour myth of betrayal. Fifty years later, the Gang of Four set up the SDP. After initial promise, the SDP failed to break through and it…