Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Monday, October 12, 2015

One more analysis of Labour leadership

The shadow PM is an important figure in British politics. Here's one more description of the new Labour leader. Hang on to this info as you analyze British politics in the next few months (years?).

End of the pier show
Many moderates, including a majority of Labour MPs, are opposed to their far-left new leader, Jeremy Corbyn, who was chosen by 59% of the party’s electorate. But for now he is toning down his differences with them. And party members are giving him a honeymoon… The only question is how brief it will be.

The delegates for this year’s conference were chosen mostly before the party was hit by the political earthquake of Mr Corbyn’s leadership win. So it is hard to assess the mood of the 160,000 new members who have joined since May, still less the 50,000 added since he became leader (Labour now has more members than all other parties put together)…

The obvious echo was of the 1980s… under Michael Foot, another far-left darling of Labour conferences. Not only were leftists more in evidence again, so also were trade union leaders. Mr Corbyn put rail renationalisation firmly back on the table…

Mr Corbyn and his team made much of fighting the Tories… But the bigger reason why Mr Corbyn’s speech was light on policy was his view that it should in future be based on democracy from the bottom up. He declared that new members wanted a new politics of engagement and involvement. He favours more reviews and debates before policies are adopted, including—to the horror of many MPs—a more powerful say for the annual conference…

Such tolerance of dissent may in part reflect Mr Corbyn’s own record as a party rebel… In his speech he put forward the idea that leadership was about listening. This went down well with delegates even if it seems a chaotic way to run a party…

Worse, several tricky issues were studiously avoided. Mr Corbyn did not mention the budget deficit or May’s election defeat. He made clear that he strongly opposes the renewal of Britain’s Trident nuclear deterrent…

Mr Corbyn tried to sum up his economic policy by saying that you do not have to take what you are given… His shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, an even more left-wing figure than Mr Corbyn, insisted that austerity was not an economic necessity, but a political choice…

Several in Brighton openly speculated about how and when they might stage a coup against Mr Corbyn, whom they see as unelectable. But Labour is bad at dumping leaders, even if they look like losing. For now at least, Mr Corbyn is enjoying himself too much to think of leaving before the 2020 election…

Under Mr Corbyn Labour will surely remain in disarray. His lack of enthusiasm for Europe may make it harder for David Cameron to win his EU referendum; and Labour’s unelectability may embolden Tory rebels. Yet, after this conference, most Conservatives will feel pretty comfortable with their lot.

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