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.

Friday 4 September 2015

On the Jez

(The title of this post is based on something B. A. Baracus said in the very first A-Team TV episode)

Well, that was the last of the Labour leadership televised hustings, just a few hours ago now. Did it help anyone?

Yes, it helped Jeremy Corbyn, who seems to have come across as more genuine than the others, the proverbial 'breath of fresh air'. Although there is an element of illusion in that seemingly very widely-held assessment, there is no denying its power.

It now seems to be almost certain that 'Jez' will become the new Labour party leader. Is this what I was originally predicting?

No. I was at first expecting Andy Burnham to win – but the Burnham campaign has been so poor, and the candidate himself has flip-flopped so many times (and been caught at it, and exposed on a number of occasions) on various policy questions, that his credibility has dropped quite significantly, even among Labour supporters themselves, who tend largely to be gullible and easily led by the nose.

I was also part-expecting a real show-stopper of a revelation or a gaffe by Corbyn – and that could still happen – though this was only a statistical judgment based on the sheer length of the campaign and the tendency of such things to happen during such extended periods in a party leadership context. It is now probably too late as, I suspect, the considerable majority of ballots have by now been cast.

I consider this to be somewhat unfortunate for Labour. Not that I am a Burnham fan, or anything like, but at least he could have handled the 'leader of H.M. official opposition' job tolerably well, whereas the likes of Corbyn and Yvette Cooper would, I think, be very poor. Liz Kendall isn't really in the running now, looking to come a distant fourth in the contest.

Thus we look set to have an unhealthy political scenario up ahead, with its inevitable tendency to draw the Conservative Government toward the centre, and easing-up on their more strongly principled policy stances because it will thus be so easy to attract disillusioned and disenfranchised Labour voters. This is one of the reasons why a good, mainstream opposition is vital for a healthy democracy.

Fortunately, the silver lining to this dark cloud is that it cannot last long. As Jeremy Corbyn will be unable to secure the support of many of his party's MPs on a number of his policies, sooner or later he will find his position is untenable – probably visibly around two years from now (actually much sooner, but it won't necessarily show outwardly for some time).

Although there is no certainly that the party's so-called selectorate will have grown up sufficiently by then, at least there is the possibility that they will choose a more acceptable leader next time. Perhaps there will be no too-lefty candidates from which to choose on that future occasion – though I suspect that 'bumbling Burnham', regardless of what he says about it today, will return to have yet another unsuccessful crack at it!