They really did it (in the words of Charlton Heston in Planet of the Apes). In the first round, on a strong majority of 59.5 per cent. They really, actually did it.
For want of a nail, etc. Conor Pope of LabourList pointsout that in a way, this is all Eric Joyce’s fault. Under the old electoral college system, the MPs could have stopped Corbyn winning. But after Joyce punched someone and was thrown out of the Labour Party, there was the scandal of the Falkirk candidate selection, which led directly to the rules being changed. One punch in 2012, and here we are.
The Labour Party has failed itself. From the woeful campaigns of the other leadership candidates to the self-declared “moron” MPs who nominated Corbyn (on Andy Burnham’s recommendation) to “broaden the debate”, they set themselves up for this situation, and thus have no-one else to blame for what is to come.
The Labour Party has failed the nation. It is the duty of an Opposition party in a democracy to provide competent, viable opposition to the Government. It’s in their own interests to do so, but more importantly it’s in the interests of the whole country to have an executive subjected to scrutiny and strong competition. In opting instead to enter into the comforting but irrelevant embrace of the hard left, they have abdicated that responsibility. Voters won’t thank them for it.
Nonetheless, there might be a short-term poll bounce for Corbyn. There is a halo of bonkers leftism that has sought a home for years – denied a home by relatively sane, if utterly mistaken, Labour leaderships they have instead floated around the Greens, TUSC, the SWP, the Scottish Socialist Party, RESPECT and various other cults. Now they will no doubt rally to Corbyn’s banner. As Farage has demonstrated, there is also some demand for politicians who don’t seem so polished or managed as the conventional party leaders, so some voters may well come in that way. For a short while, as the remaining Labour loyalists try to hold their noses and stick with the party regardless of its leader, I wouldn’t be surprised to see his polling tick up. If it does, it won’t last.
Labour is a fundamentally changed Party… As Lord Ashcroft’s recent polling showed, Labour have shed numerous previously life-long supporters already, and will struggle to win them back. The same has happened within their membership – they have lost swathes of the Blairites who once dominated the Party (Liz Kendall only got 18,050 votes – a mere couple of thousand more than she won in Leicester West in the General Election), and imported hundreds of thousands of Corbynites. These people are not going away any time soon, particularly now that they have seized control of their host.
…and as a result, predictions of a coup are premature. There are already threats of deselections and purges of Labour staffers going round – if Labour MPs do conspire to overthrow Corbyn, they can expect a backlash in their Constituency Labour Parties. What MPs might want is now a second order concern compared to what the newly leftist, newly empowered grassroots want. How many MPs will dare to join a Resistance movement, risking execution, and how many will hunker down meekly, hoping to weather the coming storm?
This is only the beginning. We’ve yet to see the shape of the Shadow Cabinet, and the fulsome tributes to the union bosses who helped to make his victory a reality are more than a hint of the ideological shape of things to come. History may look back on Ed Miliband as a moderate by comparison.
While it’s quite funny, it’s also deadly serious. Yes, there are jokes to be made – I in no way rule out making quite a few myself. But this is also quite troubling. A man who supports weakening our national defence, who has praised tyrants around the world and who describes genocidal terrorist movements as his “friends” now leads one of the two major parties of Great Britain. By all means laugh at the absurdity of the situation, but let’s also commit ourselves to utterly defeating his poisonous ideology – as we have done before.
There’s a risk for the Conservative Party. If we’re honest, while our leadership has done many great things it is at times prone to complacency. The biggest risk of Corbynism is that this precious majority Conservative Government rests on its laurels, assuming 2020 is in the bag. I hope it resists any temptation to do so – but the Conservative Party’s grassroots must also be watchful to ensure it stays sharp.
Corbyn’s first sin could be saving the Lib Dems. What do you have to do to finally extinguish the Liberal Democrats? Just when they are finally driven to the brink of extinction, the Labour Party zooms off into the left field and offers them a chance to survive in the gap which opens as a result. If Corbyn wasn’t bad enough already, this offence is unforgivable.