Corbyn won't be removed—but what happens after he steps down? The answer depends on what you think "Corbynism" isby Chaminda Jayanetti / September 23, 2018 / Leave a comment
Labour’s terrible summer, scarred by self-inflicted wounds over mishandled accusations of anti-Semitism, has once more brought grumblings about Jeremy Corbyn’s suitability as Labour leader.
Whilst immovably popular with members, MPs feel increasingly alienated and the public is wholly unimpressed; the hapless Theresa May consistently scores much better—or rather, less bad—approval ratings than Corbyn.
Indeed, a recent poll found that removing Corbyn as leader would increase Labour’s poll share far more than any shift in its Brexit policy.
Another ‘coup’ to oust Corbyn is out of the question: his position has been strengthened both by the last general election and the departure of centrists from the party membership.
No backroom manoeuvre to ease Corbyn into retirement should be considered imminent. Labour remains within touching distance of the Tories in the polls, and the horizon looks much sunnier for the opposition than the Brexit-bearing government.
However, were Labour’s poll ratings to drop sharply for any reason, and as Corbyn nears 70, attention may turn to how to preserve key parts of his agenda under a different leader while keeping the party together—“Corbynism without Corbyn,” so to speak.
Who would take up the mantle?
Critically, there are now viable alternative leaders who could in theory appeal to the Corbyn base. Two years ago, Emily Thornberry was still relatively inexperienced on the shadow frontbench, John McDonnell was seen as identical to Corbyn, and Angela Rayner was virtually unknown.
That has changed.
Thornberry is now seen as a polished media performer armed with withering putdowns and an ability to ambush rivals in debates. Rayner is one of the strongest performers in the shadow cabinet, pressuring the government over school cuts and pressing her own leadership to pledge more funding for early years’ childcare.
McDonnell has established his reputation as the brains of the operation, fleshing out a radical economic strategy and privately—but not too privately—urging Corbyn to adopt a pragmatic approach to shut down damaging rows.
Superficially, the party has three alternative leaders who could satisfy members whilst being less toxic to the public than the current incumbent.
However, while parliamentary centrists might currently think they’d settle for anyone but Corbyn, many of the current divisions are likely to continue under a different leader.
Thornberry is, fundamentally, a…