Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Monday, March 12, 2018

Politics within Labour

PM May is struggling with dissent within the Conservative Party. Jeremy Corbyn has similar problems as Labour leader.

The battle of ideas within the Labour Party
The Labour leader was in Coventry, declaring that under his radical left-wing government Britain would remain in a customs union with the EU after Brexit. The Confederation of British Industry, hardly a bastion of socialism, hailed the policy as a “real-world solution”. Rebellious Conservative MPs campaigning for a soft Brexit cheered it…

Two-and-a-half years into the job, Mr Corbyn has never been stronger. Once-mutinous MPs have fallen into line. Corbynites fill crucial positions in the party’s apparatus. Left-wingers dominate Labour councils in London. But Mr Corbyn’s rule is far from absolute…

In some local parties, by contrast, bloody intraparty battles rage. In Haringey, a Labour-run north-London borough, the controversial redevelopment of a run-down housing estate sparked a civil war from which the left wing of the local party emerged victorious. The result was the deselection or resignation of more than 20 Labour councillors…

Outside London… [the battle] has caused barely a ripple in the sea of red that is Labour’s northern urban territory. All 96 of Manchester’s council seats (of which Labour holds 94) are up for election in May…

Labour’s central party apparatus, by contrast, is increasingly stuffed with true believers [Corbyn loyalists]…

Yet although Mr Corbyn’s critics have surrendered control of the party bureaucracy, other battles are still under way… but the philosophical and policy fight is up for grabs”, says one senior Labour MP. The most important battleground is Brexit. This week Mr Corbyn reiterated that Britain “voted to leave the EU, that’s a done deal.” But Labour’s position on the manner of departure is still in flux, as shown by the customs-union shift…

The party’s members are solidly pro-EU: 89% voted to remain, as did 96% of Labour MPs. Among Labour voters, however, the figure was 64%…

Meanwhile, Labour’s softening line on Brexit creates the prospect of splitting the Conservatives, whose contingent of Remain voters is roughly equal to Labour’s Leave minority. Tory rebels have already proposed legislative amendments designed to keep Britain within a customs union, which could inflict a damaging defeat on Theresa May’s government if Labour supports them… Mr Corbyn’s new stance placates those Labour MPs who had demanded he come up with a softer Brexit policy, and creates a potential route to Downing Street should Brexit blow up for the Tories. The Labour leader may not have total control of his party, but he is moving closer to a bigger prize.

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