On the 24th September the results of the 2016 Labour Party leadership contest were announced in Liverpool just before the largest party in Europe’s annual conference. As the polls predicted, Jeremy Corbyn bathed in triumph once again but this time against a single rival (Owen Smith) and with a bigger mandate than last year, claiming 61.80 percent of the vote.
He had a majority among rank and file members, registered supporters (who needed to pay a £25 fee in order to have their say) and subscribers of affiliated societies and trade unions. It is a victory for honesty and for the new kind of politics that he represents. It is also a sobering defeat for all the Labour Members of Parliament who tried to remove Jeremy in a coup during the summer. His re-election has proved, in the words of the economist and journalist Paul Mason, that “you can’t hold back history”.
At present, Corbyn will have to do his best to unite the party and provide an effective opposition to Theresa May’s Conservative government. However, this does not depend solely on him and his backers. The right-wing of the Labour Party will have to recognise his legitimacy once and for all, otherwise they will risk damaging their careers and face de-selection. Tristram Hunt, the MP for Stoke-On-Trent Central has already made sarcastic comments about Corbyn and his followers, from the pressure group Momentum, at a special session of the Blairite faction called Progress. Luckily there are no signs of possible splits like in 1981 when the Labour right denounced Michael Foot’s left-wing leadership and formed the Social Democratic Party. In fact some key ‘moderate’ figures within the Parliamentary Labour Party (including Dan Jarvis, MP for Barnsley Central and former soldier) are tipped to become part of Jeremy’s new shadow cabinet.
Moreover, Corbyn has promised that he would let ordinary members elect certain shadow ministers in order to give them a bigger voice in the party’s inner affairs, thus making Labour even more democratic and inclusive. A question that springs to mind for many people therefore is, what really is the future of the Labour Party? The answer is not simple.
Firstly, the recent English local elections may not have gone as well as they could have, but the Bristol and London mayoral contests ended in victory and Labour are now the largest party in the Welsh Assembly. If Labour wants to return to government it will have to put its principles into practice at a local level first in order to show the public that Labour can be trusted on the national stage. This can be done in councils throughout England, in London, in Bristol and in Wales. That is why I believe that Labour will try to learn from its previous mistakes and do whatever it can to win the forthcoming mayoral contests in Birmingham, Liverpool and Manchester as well as any other local elections in the near future.
Secondly, the outcome of this year’s leadership contest has consolidated Labour as a comprehensively left wing party and has consigned Blairism to the sidelines so we can expect more socialist policies like the re-nationalisation of the railways and the removal of tuition fees for university students on the horizon. The party needs to unite on common grounds in order to win the next General Election, whenever that is. Labour not only needs to come up with a concise manifesto that appeals to the British people, in particular the working class electorate who voted for Brexit and have been marginalised and ignored by the political establishment since the 1980s.
The party has to reach out to all voters, especially to those in Scotland where they would need to expose the Scottish National Party’s (SNP) fake ‘anti-austerity’ image and regain a traditionally Labour heartland. Furthermore, the party would have to draw inspiration from its previous successes against the Tories (e.g. on tax credit cuts) and thus give Theresa May a tougher time in parliament and help block any legislation that would be harmful to the general public (such as building new grammar schools).
Finally, the Labour Party under Corbyn has to ensure that Britain obtains a Brexit deal similar to the Norwegian model which includes access to the European single market, allows the freedom of movement of peoples, safeguards workers’ rights and promotes social justice.
Published on the InQuire website on 3rd October 2016: http://www.inquirelive.co.uk/uncategorized/corbyns-victory-whats-next-labour/