Blog: How to solve a problem like the Labour Party

How to solve a problem like the Labour Party – By India Atkin

The views in this article are those of the author only, and do not reflect any official position of Voice4Change

In the recent referendum, the UK voted to leave the European Union, throwing the country into social, economic and political turmoil. In wake of the failure of the pro-European parties to secure the remain vote, the curtains have been thrown open and the ‘Brexit hangover’ has revealed itself. The political landscape is rapidly adapting to this upheaval. Even by the time this article is published, the situation may have drastically changed. Since the vote, the long-running bitter faction between the general membership voluntary and Parliamentary branches of the party has exacerbated itself. The ‘Labour Crisis’ is characterized by the current challenge to Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership amongst fears that he is unelectable in the event of a snap general election.

In the past week, two-thirds of Corbyn’s shadow cabinet have resigned. 172 of his MPs voted that they had no confidence in him, with only 40 giving him their support. The explosion of internet ‘memes’, including one of Corbyn calling Ikea to request a new cabinet, demonstrate the infallible ability of the British population to make the best of a bleak situation. Whilst Corbyn won the leadership election convincingly, and is a die-hard believer in the importance of members controlling the party, it cannot be discounted that the MPs were also elected by 9.3 million Labour voters.

Corbyn’s opposition justify the coup attempt as a ramification of him failing to veil his historically Eurosceptic nature and not being effectively vocal throughout the referendum. Pro-Corbyn leave voters have asserted that as the EU is a largely undemocratic institution, the PLP compelled Corbyn to adopt a right wing case from a left wing standpoint. Therefore, it is understandable that he lacked passion in a fight he did not believe in. Nevertheless, 7 in 10 Labour members voted to stay in the EU, with 4 to 1 of young members supporting ‘remain’. The vote was a close one, and Corbyn was a likely scapegoat for the failure of David Cameron. There is a growing consensus that it would have served Labour’s interest to have been at the forefront of the Brexit campaign. By championing worker’s rights and setting the agenda for the country, Labour would have been in a position to win a snap general election. On the other hand, many assert that in the event of a snap election, a unified pro-European Labour could secure the votes of the “regrexiters” with a manifesto promising a second referendum.

Political parties are election machines which without unity cannot effectively function. Labour’s best approach would be to unite under an ‘electable’ leader with a clear socialist agenda. This may be Corbyn. He received the largest mandate of any political leader to date in the Labour party. Again, to quote the internet, “Schrödinger’s Corbyn: simultaneously unelectable and yet overwhelmingly elected”. Moreover, he has led the party in a new direction, fronting a left wing agenda, pushing for anti-austerity, anti-defence and pro-welfare policies. At a talk last Wednesday at SOAS University in London, John McDonnell described Corbyn as being “bullied out of a socialist future by a group of MPs that refuse to accept democracy”. It’s possible that the Corbyn supporting members will not tolerate the actions of the MPs, many of whom may face deselection before a general election. Given the loss of support for the PLP in Scotland and Wales, it appears that Labour has lost the support of the traditional left whilst still not appeasing the right. The coming weeks will place a strain on the Labour party to reach a consensus over its political direction and leadership. It is clear that the key to the end of the ‘Labour Crisis’ is solidarity