Saturday, 12 September 2015

And Now The Fun Begins!

So, as expected, Jeremy Corbyn has become the new Labour party leader today, and Tom Watson the new deputy to replace Harriet Harman, who had also been standing-in as leader during the leadership contest.

This largely predictable outcome (firmed-up by Andy Burnham's woefully poor campaign and multiple flip-flops over various policies) now sets Labour on a path they haven't seen for three decades. Already half a dozen shadow cabinet members have resigned from those positions, and a number of others (including Ed Miliband) have publicly stated that they will not serve in Corbyn's shadow cabinet.

Some are saying these are principled decisions, rather than self-interest – but anyone can see what being associated with Corbyn's extreme-Left outlook and direction for his party would do to their longer-term careers, so for my money they are in fact doing this out of self-interest.

Actually, it will be the eventual shape of the new shadow cabinet that should give us our best clue as to where the Labour party is now going to be heading. If Jeremy Corbyn stuffs it with his hard-Left comrades then it will generate splits within the party, possibly resulting in a faction going off to form a new party, as the 'Gang of Four' did back in the 'eighties to form the SDP, no doubt later possibly at least considering joining forces with the Lib Dems.

History would be repeating itself, and for similar reasons.

Another interesting ingredient is the part that the new deputy leader could well play to keep the party together under trying circumstances. Tom Watson is capable of doing that, though even he would struggle to deal with the sheer magnitude of the issue. I'd give it a two year life-span – more of a delay than an avoidance – and then it really would be 'crunch time' for the party.

Incidentally, 'big beast' Tom W has a strong reputation within the party regarding his skills and abilities in matters of this ilk, and has gained a lot of personal stature with his strong handling of the 'phone hacking scandal, though that was intended to harm the party's media deserters, specifically Rupert Murdoch, not to deal with the topic. Some of us saw through that, and noted the 'ouch!' factor when The Mirror was shown to have been at least as guilty.

Tom was also one of the small group of Damian McBride's smear campaigners who were targeting (among others) Sam Cameron, the Prime Minister's wife. Remember that? McBride had to resign his own position at the time.

Despite all of this, Tom W could keep most if not all of the party together for a while, but eventually the only way it will find to survive as a significant and credible political movement will be for Corbyn to step down, probably in 2018 by my calculations. I don't think he will head-up Labour's General Election campaign in 2020, and will wish to give his replacement time to get established and to re-jig the party's manifesto.

Some are saying that Tom himself might become the successor to 'Jez' – but with all his baggage he would be an easy target for the Conservatives, so I don't recommend this. I wouldn't put it past him to try, though. The problem for Labour is that they have so little political talent that isn't already very publicly tarnished beyond being a serious contender.

The only exception of whom I am aware is the currently inexperienced Dan Jarvis. If he were to be wise enough to look ahead and prepare himself for that opening, starting right now, he could be Labour's last hope to avoid all those pitfalls and become a genuinely valuable leader of the main opposition party in British politics. I don't know of any others who could pull it off.

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