IS CORBYN DESTROYING THE LABOUR PARTY HE PROFESSES TO LOVE?
PLMR Consultant Sophie Wingfield is a former adviser to Harriet Harman, the Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, and Kerry McCarthy, who was the sixth MP to resign from Labour’s front bench since Sunday
The Parliamentary Labour Party have today voted on whether they have confidence in their Leader. Among many uncertainties, one thing is clear – they don’t, and 80% of Labour MPs have voted for the no-confidence motion.
Astonishingly, 57 of Jeremy Corbyn’s frontbench team have resigned from their positions, with more expected including his party whips. Places are becoming vacant faster than Jeremy and his team can fill them and it may have reached the point where he can no longer even do that, as Labour MPs refuse to take up his job offers. Despite this, Corbyn has chosen to dig his heels in, has refused to resign, and has put his leadership of the Party before his Parliamentary colleagues.
What lies ahead is therefore uncertain. The coup seems to be unstoppable and there will therefore have to be a leadership contest at some point. However, there are several paths the Party can take and we will only learn which one they may follow after an emergency meeting of Labour’s ruling body, the NEC, and no doubt discussions among the Parliamentary Labour Party which opposes Corbyn.
Should Corbyn choose not to resign – and he has given every indication that he won’t – then a leadership contest will no doubt follow, with him at the helm. There are different legal opinions circulating on whether Corbyn would have to secure his nomination by gathering 20 per cent of his PLP and MEP colleagues in order to be on the ballot paper. The precedent set by Neil Kinnock during his Leadership is that he will have to seek nominations – if he didn’t there would be uproar from those who want him to go and the NEC could face legal challenge from individual Labour members. However, if he were kept off the ballot by failing to secure the nomination there will be uproar from his supporters who have been vocal about his mandate. Whilst GMB and Unison statements yesterday were seen by many as lukewarm to Corbyn’s leadership, I believe that it did also suggest that they thought he should be on the ballot – a significant nod to their NEC representatives.
The NEC, renowned for its obsession with sticking to the rules, is stuck between a rock and a hard place. The Labour Party rulebook states that the bar for nominations will be 20% of the PLP – higher than if there was a vacancy for leader (15%). This is significant given he struggled to get 15% last time.
The NEC will also need to tackle the tricky question of how it involves and allows members of the public to vote in any leadership election when it’s called. Corbyn came to power in 2015 on a wave of £3 members, many of whom were found to be members of other political parties, something the NEC didn’t anticipate when the rules were changed under Ed Miliband’s leadership.
The favourites to take the unenviable job of repairing the Labour Party appear to be Angela Eagle, Dan Jarvis and the current Deputy Leader of the Party Tom Watson – who would himself need to resign as Deputy Leader, if he does decide to stand. And that would of course trigger an election for the Deputy Leadership.
The main sadness for me, and many in the Party, is the fact that Jeremy Corbyn and his team no longer seem to have the best interests of the Labour Party at heart. Yes, he had a mandate but he also has had the opportunity to prove doubters wrong in the last nine months and has not succeeded. His lack of commitment to the EU was the last straw for many.
The Labour Party is bigger than one person – Leaders of it should recognise this and not actively seek destruction of the Party. This is what Jeremy Corbyn appears to now be doing.