The new Leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition!
So the result is finally in. A man largely rejected by his fellow MPs and ending up on the ballot paper because people felt sorry for him has become leader of the Labour Party.
In a blog during the campaign I made clear my view that it doesn’t know make all that much difference to what will happen to the Labour Party. As has partly been acknowledged today many of those enthusiastic new supporters will not be carried away so much as to end up on the doorstep or telephone bank and actually campaigning. Who will be left?
Well the Parliamentary Labour Party will be in real trouble. No-one with any credibility can hold the Shadow Foreign Affairs, Defence, Chancellor or DWP briefs. What Corbyn has revealed throughout his campaign is that his views are unpalatable not only to most Parliamentarians but also to the vast majority of the people of the Country.
He will have even greater trouble in the Lords where members have no need to rely on the current leader for patronage because the patronage has already been extended by a past Leader. Many of the Labour Peers were created by Blair and are loyal to him to a man and a woman. Corbyn will not hold their support on many crucial issues.
Neither MPs nor Peers will feel bothered about the Labour whip when the new Leader has broken it more than any other Labour MP ever! I have also broken what passes for a whip in the council group. But only a few times in 32 years. At the end of the discipline and trust in your compatriots is a vital part of performance in the febrile political atmosphere of Westminster and Town Hall. Few will feel the need to give their support to Corbyn when he has failed to give his support to them.
Some of his principles many Lib Dems will share. I, for example, will be voting for the unilateral end of our nuclear weapons. In fact two years ago I shared a platform with Corbyn when CND held its annual conference in Liverpool.
But it’s his policies that will cause the problems. It is clear that he hasn’t got many! This man has spent 40 years in a knee jerk reaction to almost anything that has happened. He and we know what he against but neither he nor we know what he will do about what he is for!
In particular how will he lead the Party on the vital issue of Europe with a referendum coming up? This and not a parliamentary vote, will be the defining vote for the next generation in British politics. Europe needs improvement – any organisation must continually modify and change – but you can only do that from within. A world in which we are not part of Europe will be a lonely place for our Country as nations are bound together in increasingly large trading and cultural blocs. 40 years ago I was co-chair with a Tory and Labour member for the yes campaign in Liverpool in the one referendum that we have had. The result was an unequivocal vote for Europe but will that happen again.
The one man outside the Labour Party who will surely rejoice in this result will be Nigel Farage. He will now think it easier to persuade the British public to remove themselves from the EU support mechanisms. The Party who will be most disappointed will be the Green Party who will surely lose votes and members to a Party led by a man whose policies are almost as incoherent and undeliverable as their own!
I am sure that Corbyn will fire up support from inside a narrow 20% of the electorate for Labour. I am equally sure that he will put off many of the remaining 20% that he needs to form a majority government. Where will they go? Where will many of the Labour MPs who have so little in common with Corbyn go? Some of them will just go – off into oblivion. Some of the voters will go to or stay with UKIP. Some of the members, Parliamentarians and voters will come to us. Not tomorrow – not in great hordes – not with great expectations but they will come in the months and years ahead. We should be careful who we accept. Not everyone who would like to come is a natural ally. Being anti-Corbyn is not the same as being pro-Farron!
Meanwhile in Liverpool there is another unpopular Labour Leader who is acting as a recruiting sergeant for Lib Dem voters – I refer of course to Mayor Anderson. He’s flogging off cherished green spaces, indulging in ill thought through land and property deals and taking council money to fund an employment tribunal against another public authority. I rarely get on a bus these days without being told, “I hope you’re going to get rid of him”. It capped it all, however, when I got the same message on a plane flying back to Liverpool from holiday. And this from a man who had been a Labour supporter and union member all his life.
Liverpool will get a very clear choice next May because it’s a winner take all situation. Normally you have to wait a long time for change because only a third of the council comes up on a four year cycle. With a Mayoral situation all power is effectively concentrated in one pair of hands. If people want to stop the sale of green spaces, to increase scrutiny and raise standards inside the council; to ensure that the city’s asserts and revenues are well used; to stop our City Centre being ravaged by low level development and that Liverpool is well represented on the national stage then one vote will achieve that on the first Thursday in May 2016.
With two unpopular Labour leaders its onwards and upwards for the Liberal Democrats as we prepare for the elections in May next year and as we reform our Party to face the pressing needs of the current century and not like the Labour Party to fight the narrow class based needs of the late 20th Century