‘Politicians can getso caught up in the Westminster bubble that they come to think they
can decide on their party chief, but their role in Labour’s leadership process is over’
If a party leader losesthe confidence ofover 80 per cent of his MPs, and sees a similar proportion defy him by supporting something hepassionately opposes, you might expect that leader to bow to the inevitable and resign.
But Jeremy Corbyn is no conventional politician. He is insteadsoldiering on after suffering the biggest rebellion of his leadership over the issue ofTrident renewal.
Politicians can getso caught up in the Westminster bubble that they come to think they can decide on their party chief, but their role in Labour’s leadership process is over.
If they were the only ones who could hire or fire their leader, Jeremy Corbyn wouldn’t have lasted a month in his job. It’s Labour members put him there, and he owes his survival to them.
That’s why he is happy to shrug off any bad news in the Commons, as he knows he still represents members outside of Westminster, who still adore him.
Corbyn’s place on the ballot paper is now assured, so it’sup to party members to decide between him and whoever emerges as his main challenger. And he has been busy calling his faithful to arms.
The Labour leader has taken a full-page advert out on the back page of the Guardian, the newspaper Corbynites most like to read, saying:“I hope you’ll get behind my campaign. I want to get back to work”.
That may sound like he’s underplaying the threat he faces, but his rivals are far from organised.
Angela Eagle and Owen Smith have not been able to decide who should take on Corbyn, leaving it up to their Labour colleagues to decideonce nominations closetomorrow afternoon.This choice may end upmeaninglittle,as a new YouGov poll of Labour members suggests MPs will just be choosing who they want to be defeated by Corbyn.
The Labour leader would beat Ms Eagle by 24 points, according to the poll. Smith would do marginally better, but only just as he would loseby 22 points.
YouGov quickly detected that Corbyn was on track to win the leadership the first time, so its ability to take the temperature among Labour activists cannot be ignored.
The scale of defeat facing his rivals is large and wellbeyond any margin of error. Perhaps this is why better-known contenders like Dan Jarvis and Chuka Umunna are staying out of the fray- they know a lost cause when they see one.
An uphill struggle awaits Angela Eagle and Owen Smith in their bid to oust Jeremy Corbyn.
To win, they need to lay out why Jeremy Corbyn is wrong for the party beyond meekly pointing out that many MPs don’t rate him, and tell Labour memberswhy they are better.
So far all Smith has offered as his manifesto is that he is “normal” while Ms Eagle insists “protest isn’t enough”.
Corbyn’s rivals warned that members last year that he would turn the party into a “protest movement”, but they still voted him in. Why do they think this line will do better the second time?
Moderates have so far sought todifferentiate themselves from Corbyn over cuts, Trident and foreign policy.
But they need to put a much broader and clearer case acrossto avoid falling into the Corbynite trap of being able to be dismissed as the “slash and bomb more” option.
If Corbyn’s critics want to present an alternative to members, they need to start fighting now.
Hilary Benn, a supporter of Ms Eagle, was on the Today programme to talk about Trident this morning. This was achance to explain why Corbyn’s implacable opposition to it, in defiance of the party’s review and any pretence of collective responsibility, showed he was not up to the job.
Instead, he said that Jeremy Corbynhad done a “great deal for the party” and had “changed politics”.
He “has made a huge contribution and will continue to do so,” Benn insisted, before adding apologetically that the “problem” was “amajority of people don’t think he is a leader”.
Benn might think it isn’t “comradely” to criticise Corbyn too strongly, but he has nothing to lose. He has already been sacked by the Labour leader from his shadow cabinet over suspicions he was instigating acoup, so can’t sink further in the estimation of Corbynites.
If he and his colleagues genuinely believethe party is better off without Corbyn, they have to say so –consistently and loudly. Successful coups tend not to be polite, as Julius Caesar, Lenin andIain Duncan Smith would attest.
Ms Eagle and Smith’s supporters can’t stay quietif they want to encourage those still in the party to vote for an alternative, and tocounter the surge of Corbynites paying £25 to keep their man in place. There is no point in them mincing their words for the sake of respecting their fellow comrade, ashe’ll haveno reason to play nicely with the moderates anymore if he clings on.
The moderates have finally decided to take action aftermonths sniping at CorbynTheyhave fixed their bayonets onto their rifles and went over the top in their charge at hisbunker. They can’t pretend this didn’t happen once the battle is over. They mustfight to win, or prepare to stay in their trench for a long time.