More people have joined Labour since Jeremy Corbyn was elected the leader of the party than are in the Lib Dems. This amounts to 62,000 new members, adding to the thousands who joined or registered as supporters during the election campaign, which it is worth recalling ended in an emphatic victory for Corbyn, who received almost 60 percent of the first preference votes cast.
You would automatically and logically think, given the size of his mandate, and given that his election has attracted so many new members to the party, that his authority would be unquestioned within the PLP and especially within his own shadow cabinet. At the very least you would imagine it would be respected.
However the opposite has been the case. In fact, since becoming leader, Jeremy Corbyn has found himself being opposed, undermined, and boxed in at every turn in what can only be considered an egregious and disgraceful violation of his mandate and a studied insult to the thousands who campaigned and voted for him.
On the very morning after winning the election, the Labour Party’s new deputy leader, Tom Watson, appeared on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show and articulated his intention of opposing the new leader’s position on NATO and on Trident. For those who may have been asleep these past few months, Jeremy Corbyn made it clear during his leadership campaign that he favours Britain’s withdrawal from NATO and the scrapping of Trident.
Since then we’ve had both Lord Falconer and Hilary Benn publicly voicing their opposiiton to their new leader’s policies, while Sadiq Khan, Labour’s candidate for Mayor of London in 2016, has left nobody in any doubt that he intends to use the office of mayor to mount a Blairite fightback, recently using the Daily Mail as a platform to attack Corbyn in the most withering terms.
It is hard to resist the conclusion that this is part of a coordinated and systematic campaign to neuter the new leader and erode his authority, to the point where he will find it impossible to push through any of the policies and implement the vision upon which he was elected. Though it is still very early days in his leadership, if such flagrant and open opposition within the PLP is allowed to continue the prospects for the radical change he outlined will undoubtedly diminish.
A lack of organisation and coherence is the death of any leadership, which is why Corbyn needs as a matter of urgency to come down on those who are intent on undermining his mandate. In this regard he needs to mobilise his base outwith the PLP, the 16,000 who campaigned for him across the country, the over 200,000 who voted for him, and the 62,000 inspired by his message and vision to join Labour since the election. The PLP needs to understand that the membership of the party will not accept such naked disregard for them or their leader.
Unity at any price is a chimera. It is tantamount to the unity of the graveyard. It is unity of purpose that is required, which may well mean a period of protracted internal struggle and strife before it is achieved. But if Labour is to become the party of transformational change promised by Jeremy Corbyn’s election this unity of purpose will have to be achieved.
The right within the Labour Party is clearly determined to ensure that the new leadership passes into history at the earliest opportunity. It is therefore up to the membership to rally round and ensure it does not. If there is to be an internal struggle for the direction and soul of Labour better now than later – and better a good fight than a bad peace.
Jeremy Corbyn has been personally immense over these past few months. The pressure, scrutiny, and expectation he’s had to deal with will undoubtedly have taken its toll. He needs help, he needs allies – most of all he needs to be continually reminded that he does not stand alone, that he has mass support outwith the House of Commons and Labour Party HQ, and that it is their vision not his that is marginal and incompatible with the real world.
The record of the last decade of growing inequality and social injustice at home has been married to the nauseating hypocrisy of a foreign policy that has succeeded in sowing crisis and chaos across the world. This is their record as part of a political establishment whose shake-up is long overdue.
Those members of Labour’s new shadow cabinet who oppose the newly-elected leader should either resign or be sacked. As for Sadiq Khan, he is not the Labour candidate for Mayor of London in 2016 – at least not one worthy of support. The real Labour candidate for Mayor of London in 2016 is George Galloway.