Last week Jeremy Corbyn delivered his second keynote speech as the leader of the Labour party at its annual conference. He did so after being re-elected as leader, with increased support and a stronger mandate from the party membership. It was a speech that received loud applause from many in the audience and at home, a speech which was seen as strong, unifying and definitive, delivered in a difficult time for the party. It was no doubt delivered exactly how Seumas Milne wanted it to be and to many it would appear that the issues within the Labour party are finished. How wrong they would be.
I have been a Labour party member for several years now and have campaigned at elections, spent time at the HQ and generally done all I can to promote the party and its values. I remember in May last year when the election results were coming in being genuinely disappointed about the result and thinking then that the party needed to wake up and listen to the electorate. Sadly, it has chosen to do the opposite. It has turned inwards and as a result in the last year I have done nothing but question the party and my continued membership within it. It is not that I feel my politics have greatly changed in this time, but that my party has, to the extent where I now no longer recognise it. The party that I once touted as the only option, is no longer an option. It seems that it no longer stands for social mobility, it no longer stands for success and it certainly no longer stands for power.
The lessons that should have been learned from the last election certainly have not. We currently sit in a position where we are on route to our worst general election result in recent history. It is more than likely that after 2020, or sooner if that be the case, that Labour will hold no seats in Scotland, lose heavily to UKIP in the North of England and overall have less half the total Conservative seats. This is of course a situation which has been brought about by the party’s new crop of naive members.
I now find myself as a minority within the party for the first time since I joined. I am currently one of those people being branded as a ‘red tory’ or as John McDonnell recently called Alastair Campbell, “a f**cking a***hole”. So being a moderate within the party currently is a strange situation. The most infuriating part of this abuse is that it is often being given by people who have spent no time contributing towards the Labour movement previously and in Seumas Milne’s case, have never previously done anything for it. This is of course but one of the many problems we now face.
One of the more important problems is obviously Jeremy Corbyn. As I have previously mentioned, the man has been re-elected with a strong mandate and now has a convincing majority within the Labour party. However, this ‘strong’ mandate has only been given by 313,000 people, nowhere near the required amount to win a general election. Of course nobody expects a party leader to be elected by millions of people, that is not the nature of our party political system, however, in this circumstance it must be said that those who did vote for Jeremy Corbyn are not representative of the wider electorate. This point is exemplified by the polling done in the past year while Jeremy has been leader which shows that Labour is not seen as a government in waiting. In fact, recent polling shows that Theresa May is expected to increase her majority in the commons dramatically, with Conservative MPs predicted to be representing over 400 constituencies after 2020. This is an alarming prospect for Labour and supports the thinking that the party will be out of power for years to come.
This is in no small part due to the left wing ethos that many Corbyn’s supporters hold that they are right, everyone else is wrong and that there is no debate to be had. Of course, as a Labour party supporter I hope to see a government that is further to the left than the current one but I also appreciate that there are equal proportions of the electorate that hope to see the opposite. That is why there must be widespread debate and compromise, and we must have a government that represents the electorate as whole. That is true democracy. This is just one of the many reasons why with Jeremy Corbyn as leader our party will never be elected to office. His policies of scrapping trident, not limiting immigration and printing money at will do not sit inline with the country’s, and so he will never be elected.
Aside from Corbyn a real concern is that of the Labour shadow chancellor, John McDonnell – a man that has openly named Marx, Trotsky and Lenin has his “most significant” influences. McDonnell seems to be different to Corbyn, he is in no way interested in coming across as a nice guy, his tactics are far more aggressive. It is in face McDonell that seems to lead this attitude that there is no room for debate, just see for example when he told Owen Smith that he was willing to see the party split “If that’s what it takes” (to see Corbyn remain leader). He is not the sort of man that we should be entrusting our economy to, and is certainly a factor which adds fuel to fire of the party’s demise.
Despite all of this, it is not all doom and gloom for the party and I must also address the reasons that contribute towards my decision to possibly remain within it. One of these reasons is the excellent work being done by the now backbench MPs such as Yvette Cooper, Chuka Umunna and Hilary Benn, to name but a few. These MPs are all part of the 172 that realised earlier this year that the party was heading in the wrong direction. These are also the MPs that should be on the front bench leading the party. They are competent, experienced, statesman-like figures who would lead the party to power. Just look at Hilary Benn’s address to parliament over the Syria vote, he spoke like a leader and the country sat up and took notice of him – I am yet to see Jeremy give a speech half as convincing.
On a side note, I hope to see Owen Smith and Angela Eagle feature heavily in a post-Corbyn leadership front bench. While neither of them are necessarily the first names most of us moderates would have put down to challenge Corbyn, they were brave enough to do so, conducted themselves excellently and if either had been successful would have acted as a vital key in the return of many excellent Labour party MPs to the top of the Shadow Cabinet.
I voted for Owen Smith in the recent leadership election and did not vote for Corbyn last time around either. I have fundamental disagreements with the leader and his team on many issues and do not see them as a government in waiting. Do I continue to support the party and campaign with the hard-working MPs whose vision for the party and the country matches my own, or do I leave the party and show my disdain for the re-election of a leader that is beyond incompetent?
For now perhaps, that decision will remain undecided.