Corbyn’s politics are good. His leadership not so. He has to go if Labour is to win, but a coup solves nothing – gentle coercion is the answer.
Corbyn has to go: his failure to lead any campaign in the last nine months, from by-elections to the referendum, show that he is not capable of carrying on. Labour needs a new winning image, and they need someone who can put forward a dream for the people and carry them and the party towards said dream. Corbyn’s great selling point was how he mobilised young people and created the largest membership of any modern political party. However, membership in local CLPs has started to decline and the party hasn’t been able to turn the young pound-paying members, who think activism means just clicking an e-petition or posting angry tweets, into door-knocking campaigners.
The important question for the Labour Party is not if he should be replaced but who should replace him. Every candidate has problems: Chuka Umunna, Tristram Hunt and Sir Keir Starmer are all too urban and intellectualist to connect with Middle England voters. Cooper’s affiliation with her husband, Ed Balls, and her connection to the last Labour government are equally as isolating as the stale careerist image Andy Burnham has in the southern cities, which have no loyalty to Labour, only to their liberal doctrine. Hilary Benn, whose Syria speech established his credibility, is now despised by the left of the party, and Tom Watson would not want to establish himself as a Brutus to another leader. The most popular new candidates seem to be Dan Jarvis or Lisa Nandy but whether they can turn round the gloomy electoral picture, which will require a greater swing than 1997, is another question altogether.
The biggest problem for any challenger is dealing with the problem of Labour values. Labour has a proud history: from fighting with the suffragettes, to creating the NHS, to introducing the national minimum wage, Labour has always lived up to its creed that we will always achieve more as a people when fighting together than standing alone. It is our shared belief in unity, valour and justice that has led to the attitude that principle is more important than power, to many in the party.
Thus, overthrowing the leadership and having our new leader stand over the corpse of Corbyn’s soiled leadership career is not the most glamourous image to attain. Furthermore, it hardly can fill the electorate with trust, which is so desperately lacking in modern politics. But while ousting the current leadership is an act of disloyalty that could be seen to undermine the solidarity that many in the party cherish, Labour must remember that their current number one priority must be to mitigate the damage of economic uncertainty to the British public. Since Corbyn has failed to do this in the past, relying on Baroness Hollis’ own plans to stop tax credit cuts, he must be replaced by someone who can mobilise and channel the PLP as effectively as he does the membership.
Party membership is important but the overwhelming mandate that Corbyn received was from in-tune middle class, suburban, political elites, whose only qualification is a yearly membership fee. Leftists flocked to Labour upon his arrival and the party membership lurched leftwards. However, all party members must remember that every inch of politics is about public service and it is their job to fight for the people’s Britain, not their own. Many members of political parties think that if they could just sit down with the public and list off statistics or emphatically explain their favourite type of economic theory, the country would all unite behind their utopian fantasy but that simply isn’t the case. The political establishment must face the essential flaw of democracy: that ignorance is just as valuable as information in terms of political validity. Labour members could try to sell the sunshine of socialism, but what would be easier and more appealing to Britain is to pick a leader who looks, seems and feels like them.
If the referendum has shown us anything, it is that there is a growing rift between the politically informed cognoscenti and average workers. Corbyn’s polling isn’t good and thus a change of leader is needed. He doesn’t connect with the core vote, shown by the very narrow Remain lead in Newcastle and Leave result in Birmingham which was predicted to be much higher for Remain. Ordinary working class voters fear globalisation, and rightly so. It would be a lie to suggest that the majority of jobs that free trade creates are for unskilled workers. However, Labour’s remain campaign was insular and focused on pleasing urban elites rather than protecting their key voters that have been leaking away from Labour to Ukip. This was the tactical error that summarises Corbyn’s inadequacy as leader.
Labour can only win by tackling the Conservatives head on and not chasing the fantasy that there are secret Guardian readers who hide away on polling day. However, his opposition have to realise a direct coup in a time of economic volatility is not the best way forward for the country since Labour must provide scrutiny of the Conservative negotiations out of the EU in order to advocate for the leftist dynamics in this process. Therefore, rather than a dramatic resignation, coercion should be used to appeal to Corbyn’s sense of decency and his lifelong dedication to equality.
Labour must conduct their leadership process carefully. This time, unlike the 2015 election, there can be no public debate that tears the party’s wings apart but candid discussion that unites them together. This will allow Labour to constantly retell their narrative: that the issue is austerity and chronic neglect rather than Europe or the 2008 financial crisis, during the Conservatives’ divisive election which will put Labour back in control of the rhetoric instead of lagging behind like they have for so many years.
The way they must remove Corbyn is by defending his radical agenda but giving it to someone who can win. The Beckett report showed that left-wing policies are popular but it was the strength of leadership that lost them the 2015 election. Labour must once again become the standard bearer for leftist populism in England like the SNP have in Scotland. It was reported Corbyn never wanted to be leader. Let’s turn him into the gracious saviour who stood down for the good of the country, rather than demonise him as an out-of-touch old man, which only encourages the rhetoric of division and weakness, rather than community and hope.
Labour must now do what it hasn’t done in a generation: put country before party, put reality before idealism and put themselves back in the driving seat so that they can take back the heart and soul of this ever so divided country. The country needs it.