Labour’s infighting threatens to destroy any chance at success the party has.
According to Tristram Hunt, the Labour party is “in the s**t.” He might be right, but he’s wrong about everything else. Labour doesn’t need new leadership, certainly not from the so-called one per cent and the cracks in the party are far from Jeremy Corbyn’s fault. Hunt and others like him should practise a little self-reflection; what they find might surprise them.
It was obvious from day one that Corbyn would be fighting an uphill battle; he barely scraped enough nominations to run for leader, and the press clearly don’t like him. The opposition from within the Labour party isn’t exactly a surprise, and I don’t expect MPs to suddenly warm to his policies. Even so, the level of public criticism of Corbyn’s leadership in only the first two months is unprofessional at best, and actively undermines him at worst. There’s a difference between open and democratic debate, which I would be happy to see, and what amounts to an attempted political coup.
I voted for Corbyn in September, so I’m biased by the fact that the new Labour leadership reflects my political views. This doesn’t mean I’m blind to Corbyn’s faults: he could certainly do more to win over the right of the party, and his appointment of Seamus Milne was almost deliberately antagonistic. At the same time, many of Corbyn’s critics are practically tripping over themselves in eagerness to criticise him, even if it means being wrong. If Liz Kendall had been elected, I would have been disappointed, but I’d have hoped that even Corbyn’s supporters would rally around her in a show of solidarity. After all, “if I can’t have it no one can” is an attitude that most of us leave behind in childhood.
Hunt is not the only one who has expressed dissatisfaction with Corbyn’s leadership, but in actively encouraging “dissent” he has gone further. Hunt seems to think that removing Corbyn from power is the solution, despite the fact that he was democratically elected with a large majority, and it is unlikely that he is the only one with this view. This is short-term thinking – not only could it have potential implications for democracy within Labour, but nobody seems to have a clear idea of what they want instead; and if Corbyn does stick around, what then?
Labour’s inability to accept its new leader amounts to self-sabotage. While Labour fights over trident, despite the fact that up to two-thirds of people support scrapping or replacing it, and threatens to defy Corbyn over Syria, the Conservatives are threatening to flood the House of Lords in order to push through cuts to tax credits, while George Osborne pursues increasingly extreme and ideological austerity measures. Everyone agrees that a divided Labour Party is useless, but those who claim that in spite of this it is somehow still better than leaving Corbyn in charge are wrong. In many ways, it is a self-fulfilling prophecy: they dissent, and use this as proof that Corbyn cannot lead.
It is easy to blame Corbyn: he is too left wing, too old and “unelectable,” despite the fact that the latter is difficult to measure and largely irrelevant, with over four years between now and the next general election. It is harder to face up to the truth: Labour is self-destructing not because of its leadership, but because of the MPs who disagree with what the voters decided and have chosen to disregard it. Corbyn has good policies, charisma and clear ideas. He may not be perfect – far from it – but as leader of a united Labour Party he could be a serious threat to the Conservatives. It is a shame he might never get the chance to prove it.