By: Toby Gould, Student Voices editor
I begin writing this article as Shadow Women’s Minister Kate Green resigns announces she is the latest in many MPs who are part of the ‘shadow government’ (which goes further than the shadow cabinet) to hand their resignation letter into Jeremy Corbyn. No doubt more will follow; It’s unlikely I’ll be able to finish writing this piece before someone else goes. This is the biggest crisis in a long time for Labour. For Jeremy Corbyn, this is the biggest test of his leadership. Or, ‘non-leadership’ as it probably should be known.
I don’t believe that Corbyn can hang on from this. Last night he reshuffled his shadow cabinet, having to appoint new MPs to high profile positions, after two dozen quit last night. This act of defiance was short-lived though – even more members of the shadow cabinet have resigned today. Nearly all of those MPs who have abandoned their leader have suggested the reason for them doing so, or at least part of the reason, was Corbyn’s failure to engage Labour supporters to vote for Remain in the referendum. They have every right to be angry. He didn’t appear on the same platforms as the higher profile leave campaigners did and when he did speak in favour of Remain you could be forgiven for thinking that he was actually giving a Leave speech. In fact, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he secretly cast his ballot in favour of Brexit.
Of course, some of these MPs who have left the shadow cabinet have had a long standing opposition to Jeremy Corbyn. This has been duly pointed out by bitter Corbyn supporters. But the coup that is happening now, and we are right to call it a coup, goes much further. For example, Angela Eagle was never originally hostile to Corbyn’s leadership. She resigned earlier today. Her reasons? His failure during the referendum campaign and his failure to communicate with MPs. She said:
“Jeremy doesn't respond when you ask him questions. He just absorbs it and doesn't say anything." – Angela Eagle
The issue is, Jeremy Corbyn is failing as a leader. As a human being, we all seem to agree that he is a decent person. But as a leader, he is absent and divisive. He started saying he wanted Labour to be a ‘broad tent’. But time and time again he has led the party based on his views and his views alone. During the referendum he was pushed to accept the overwhelming view of the parliamentary Labour party, but as we’ve seen he did this half-heartedly. He surrounds himself with a small team, in the leadership office, who were drafted in from his campaign for the leadership. These are the people who share his politics, who fought against the leadership during the Blair years and who are at odds with a large part of the Labour parliamentary party. When we see Labour MPs on political talk shows (except the hard-core Corbyn fans, and controversial MPs, Dianne Abbot and Emily Thornberry), they seem disconnected from their leader. In fact, they often openly speak against Corbyn and his policies.
After the EU referendum this has been magnified. Labour MPs have grown frustrated with Corbyn and have lost confidence in his ability to lead the party and fight a general election. Those who did want rid of him before the next general election have had to act fast – there is now a very real possibility that the UK will go to the polls to elect a new government by the end of the year. That’s three years before we thought we would be, before we voted to leave the EU.
The title of this article asks how long Jeremy will last. Scenario one, which I believe is most likely, is that he won’t last long at all. He will lose a vote of no confidence by the parliamentary party and may or may not choose to run for the leadership again. He has said he will, but how can he lead a party that has just passed a vote of no confidence in his leadership? He can’t. So surely he can’t run for the leadership again. But if he does try to, it’s possible that MPs will be able to block him. He may have to get the nominations from MPs again (though this isn’t clear) and it’s very possible he won’t get them; therefore, party members won’t be able to vote him into the leadership position.
A second scenario is that he does manage to hang on. If so, he will be leading a severely divided party. The MPs who resigned from the shadow cabinet will not be able to return – you can’t serve a leader you have no confidence in. These MPs will make it impossible for Corbyn to have clear policy positions. I’m sure they’ll have no issue voting against the leadership. That’s if they stay with the party. There are suggestions that some could defect to the Lib Dems, or just resign the party whip and sit as independents in protest at Corbyn.
If this second scenario happens, Corbyn may last until the next general election (if we have one after the Conservative’s give us a new Prime Minister) – which he’ll inevitably lose.
The title also asks where Labour can go from here. Of course, this depends on what happens with the leadership. To achieve progress, Labour needs to become united. It can only do this if a new leader comes in – not from the far left (for example John McDonnel) or from the ‘Blairite’ group but someone who is able to unify the party and lead them into a general election with a clear vision for the country. This certainly isn’t an easy job – it may not even be possible – but to stand a chance, Corbyn needs to stand down now. If he fights another leadership battle, he’ll divide the party even further.
As I finish writing, two more shadow cabinet ministers have resigned.
How long can Jeremy Corbyn last and where does Labour go from here? Reviewed by Student Voices on 17:05 Rating: