Sunday, 25 September 2016

Jeremy Corbyn re elected. What next?

Source: BBC

So, Jeremy Corbyn has been re elected as leader of the Labour Party with 62% of the vote, up from 59% last year. His opponent, Owen Smith, congratulated him and said he hoped that he and Mr Corbyn could work together in the future. What happens next is the million dollar question.

The immediate aftermath of the leadership election is the start of the Labour Party conference, which has been taking place today. This is largely being seen as an attempt to put on a show of unity for outsiders, but in some of the fringe events, tensions are already beginning to re-emerge.

In today's Progress fringe, for instance, Tristam Hunt, the Labour MP for Stoke Central, compared Corbyn to Militant, the radical leftist group that controlled Liverpool council in the 80s, and said that he did not do enough to oppose fascists such as ISIS. At a Momentum fringe, Jackie Walker, the vice chairperson of the organisation, said that anti semitism in Labour was being exaggerated and was being used to undermine the leadership. Other radical leftist groups were allegedly distributing leaflets calling for the mass deselection of MPs perceived to be on the right of the Labour Party.

It seems impossible to predict what will happen next with certainty. Corbyn may be buoyed by his increased mandate and may be set to pursue divisive policy changes, such as the forced mandatory reselection of members of parliament, and shadow cabinet elections by the membership, rather than MPs. Equally he may also decide to be more cautious, and come to a compromise. A "Non aggression pact" being promoted by Tom Watson and others suggests that rebel MPs should stay quiet about their dislike of Mr Corbyn and that the shadow cabinet should be elected by MPs, in return for Corbyn agreeing not to pursue the afforementioned policy changes.

The one thing that Mr Corbyn does seem to be pursuing is the removal of party staff who disagree with his leadership. Squarely in the firing line is general secretary Iain Mcnicol. Mcnicol made his thoughts clear today when he declared on the conference floor that Clause I socialism would win the day-a direct reference to the main argument of MPs opposed to Mr Corbyn's leadership, due to his perceived interest in extraparliamentary politics rather than in parliamentary socialism. Jenny Formby, the political director of Unite, is reportedly being lined up for the general secretary position: She is close to both Len Mcluskey, Corbyn's main union ally, and the leadership office itself.

Due to the continued divisions that are already evidently present, just a day after Jeremy Corbyn's re-election, it also looks unlikely that the civil war in the party will stop: Many MPs may well return to the shadow cabinet, but some members of parliament such as Jess Phillips have declared that they will continue to actively oppose his leadership. Such MPs are likely to be targeted most heavily by the Momentum group for deselection.

Overall, it remains to be seen whether or not Labour can pull itself together again, though the early signs are not positive.