As expected, Jeremy Corbyn has retained his job as the leader of the labour party, beating the commendable yet uninteresting Owen Smith and slightly increasing his share of a slightly enlarged vote. According to most pundits that is the worst possible outcome. The labour party is even more doomed. Double doomed.
Speaking immediately after the result Dan Hodges described it as a “disaster.” Dan Hodges is of course a staunch representative of the Labour Party, having quit the party twice and declared his support for both the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats at various points. His views on Corbyn have been very well documented as this sensitively titled article from the Mail in June shows.
Despite this comfortable win the public perception of Corbyn and his party hasn’t changed and that doesn’t do much for his chances at a General Election. The Momentum rally down the road was almost better attended than the conference itself which doesn’t create the image of a committed opposition. Thanks to the ill-thought out attempt to oust Corbyn, and perhaps his own lack of managerial skill as well, the Labour party is truly divided. Those in opposition to Corbyn have wholeheartedly destroyed their own position within the party. They now have to consider whether they really want to “give him room to fail on his own”. Already some Labour Councillors have decided to reject even that idea, quitting the party altogether. The leader of the Portsmouth Town Council believes that the PLP must start its own party altogether. This will doubtless be the most electable party the country has ever seen.
Similarly, the biggest mistake Corbyn and his team could make is thinking their position is any more positive than it was in June and attempt to push them out entirely. Both walls are needed to hold up this house, whether it’s on fire or not. Being evasive over the continued question of deselection doesn’t help, as much as some of his supporters may approve of the idea. My own opinion on who should hold the reigns changed almost daily. I did eventually vote for Smith after reading the suggestion of a shadow cabinet elected by the membership. Seeing how crippled the party was by one election I didn’t like the idea of thirty more. Nonetheless I am glad that Corbyn won and that this flirtation with wholly unapologetic opposition to the Tories can continue.
If there’s one reassuring figure in all of this it’s Corbyn himself. The same unpolished charisma was on display, though he was carrying himself in a smart suit far better than he normally does and delivering what sounded like a carefully prepared speech rather than his usual signposted stream of consciousness. He definitely talked the talk of presenting a united front to this government; something his detractors, very few of whom were prepared to argue policies, have constantly said is the priority.
He called for Labour members to reject the temptations of slacktivism and “hit the streets” for the party and to campaign on the issues that they are in agreement on. Similarly John McDonnell was accepting of the fact that some high-ups in the party don’t want to return to the shadow cabinet, asking only that they work on policy issues they feel passionately about. As the membership has thrown its lot in with Corbyn, the MPs have little choice but to follow suit – lest they openly admit to sabotaging their own party.
The broad church with holes in the roof and a shaky foundation that dips to the left that is Labour is still standing. If neither wall decides to give way out of spite for the other then the next three and half years can be one of committed opposition and work, free of infighting and full of determination.
Alternatively Labour could get the ball rolling on another leadership race? That could completely paralyze the party until nearly Christmas and I’m sure Stephen Hepburn, Jim Radnor or Alan Campbell are in with a pretty good chance. Now which one of those names did I make up?