It’s a year to the day since Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader of the Labour Party, and what a year it’s been. He promised to change British politics, and he has certainly done so – though perhaps not in the way he imagined.
To celebrate the landmark, here are the nine most notable achievements thus far:
- Bringing a wide variety of hard left extremists into the Labour Party. ConHome was the first outlet to document the presence of numerous extreme groups in Momentum, including the Socialist Workers Party, the Socialist Party (AKA Militant) and the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty. They may not be the majority of his new supporters, but they are certainly among the most active and best organised, taking up key roles at grassroots level.
- Swiftly splitting his Party over Trident… Few expected his first Labour conference as leader to be an unmitigated triumph, but his speech (strong message here) undershot expectations, provoking several Shadow Cabinet members to publicly disagree with him on the nuclear deterrent.
- …and then again over bombing ISIS. An early test of Corbyn’s confused but tyrant-friendly foreign policy came in the vote on bombing ISIS. Corbyn managed to not only lose it, but in so doing bitterly divided his MPs and elevated Hilary Benn to the position of honorary leader of the non-Corbynites. All in fewer than three months after becoming leader.
- Presiding over the resurgence of anti-semitism in Labour. Not unconnected to Corbyn’s popularity among the far left is the spate of shocking instances of anti-semitism which have been exposed within his Labour Party. Having presided over that disturbing trend, Corbyn initially ignored it, then issued condemnations (always appended with the qualifier “and all other forms of racism”), then commissioned a weak investigation by Shami Chakrabarti (in return for a peerage), then capped it all by comparing ISIS to Israel at the launch of her findings. Next week, the Shadow Chancellor will appear on a platform with a Corbynite activist who alleged that jews financed the slave trade, a pretty vivid sign that the problem is yet to go away.
- Managing a reshuffle so badly that several shadow ministers resigned… In a clumsy attempt to rid himself of personnel he deemed ideologically unsuitable, Corbyn almost managed to spark an eternal reshuffle in January of this year as frontbenchers quit in protest at the sackings.
- …then doing it again, but even worse, a few months later. The June reshuffle began with the overnight sacking of Hilary Benn, which prompted 21 shadow ministers to quit their frontbench roles. When Corbyn supporters like Rebecca Long-Bailey boast that he created ‘the most diverse shadow cabinet in history’, they neglect to mention the decision of that diverse cabinet to resign in protest at his incapable leadership. The outcome was the open warfare which currently engulfs the Parliamentary Labour Party, 80 per cent of whom have no confidence in Corbyn.
- Leading his Party to disaster in May. While the official lists of his achievements cite such impressive feats as, er, Labour “holding Liverpool”, May was a shockingly bad result for the Opposition. They failed to make the necessary advances in England, lost their majority in Wales and suffered heavy losses in Scotland. Their main success, in London, went to a candidate who had worked hard to distance himself from his leader.
- Helping Leave to win the EU referendum. After a lifetime of Euroscepticism, Corbyn’s attempt at a case for remaining in the EU was lacklustre at best - and we now know that he essentially refused to engage with the official pro-EU campaign at all. Labour voters turned out to be crucial to the eventual Leave victory – thank you, Jeremy.
- Allowing Theresa May to open up a remarkable poll lead. The Conservative Party now routinely scores double digit leads over Labour – but even more staggering is the gap in approval ratings between the new Prime Minister and her opponent, which recently topped 70 percentage points. May is an effective politician, off to a good start, but Corbyn makes her life easier at every turn.
We can all agree that it’s been a memorable year for the Labour leader. Given that he is on track to defeat Owen Smith, this may just be the beginning.