The past week has seen a return to the issue of the Labour Party leadership on many News and Current Affairs features here. Most pundits are predicting that Jeremy Corbyn will be re-elected by the party members, and that he is set to defeat his nondescript opponent, the former pharmaceutical company lobbyist, Owen Smith. Corbyn’s enemies are lining up to bad mouth him, in advance of his probable win.
Many of his fellow Labour members in parliament appear on round table discussions or late-night news programmes, telling anyone who will listen that they will not serve in his cabinet, and are unlikely to support his policies.
The main argument against Corbyn, from both his spiteful colleagues, and the media commentators, is that a party with him in charge is not electable. They claim that the Labour Party will split into yet more factions, and by the time of the next election in 2020, will lose more seats, and cease to be an opposition in all but name. They also claim that the British public does not want further nationalisation of industry, higher taxes to pay for improvements in the NHS, or to see an end to the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Those in his party who oppose Corbyn, many of them Blairites and crypto-Tories, are stalking the chat shows like harbingers of doom, foretelling the end of Labour as we know it.
Many of these individuals, and the political reporters they are so keen to talk to, are the same people who claimed that UKIP brought about the vote to leave the EU, and that the voters are so keen to embrace their policies, that they will no longer vote for the Labour Party, and change to UKIP instead. They blame Corbyn for anything they can think of, including the vote to leave. This argument seems desperate to my way of thinking. UKIP has only one MP in parliament, and less than 40,000 members in the party. The former leader, Nigel Farage, remains as an MEP in Europe for the time being, alongside twenty or so other UKIP MEPs who will all be out of a job after Britain leaves the EU. They have around 500 elected local council officers, out of a total of many thousands around the UK, and overall control of only one council in the entire country.
This does not tie in with the level of influence and power that Labour dissidents claim for this minor party of protest voters that will ruin their own party, and see them consigned to the political wilderness for ever. Yet these same people assert that Corbyn cannot galvanize support, or enthuse a nation with his policies, despite the vast power base and traditional working-class vote that the Labour Party seems to be slowly recovering.
Jeremy’s opponents want to have their cake, and eat it. On one hand, they claim that the public wants their pseudo-Tory and business-backed policies, and that socialism is not the way forward. To keep Corbyn as Labour leader will be the end of everything as we know it, they say. But on the other hand, they warn that UKIP, with one MP, can influence the whole nation by a click of its fingers, or a raised eyebrow from Mr Farage.
They can’t have it both ways, I’m afraid.