On Saturday 12th September the Labour Party elected Jeremy Corbyn MP as
Leader. It was by an overwhelming majority, whilst new Deputy Leader Tom
Watson also won with a very clear mandate. Just wait for the dull and
predictable to exploit the narrow layers of their humour by referring to Tom
Up to the announcement of the result, there were those who wanted to
concentrate on the impact of the affiliates and supporters on the vote.
There was one BBC man who kept on claiming that Jeremy Corbyn had partially
stolen the election by recruiting so many supporters to the poll. In
reality, he won overwhelmingly with registered members of the party, and
that again, could not just be from recent acquisitions.
There has clearly been a considerable move, amongst members and others, to
change the role of the Labour Party in British politics. This is connected
to the trauma of the Election result in May but it reflects as well a
tendency in Europe for a clearer response to austerity from the left and for
changes to the way the party works.
We cannot know how this is going to work out. We have a Leader who has been
a backbencher for over 30 years and who is totally untested at the level of
political activity where he must now lead. He has a major mandate from the
party and he must have the support of all members including those with
experience of Government. That cannot be uncritical acceptance of all that
he proposes to do. That would not be in line with his appeal to lead a more
open and Democratic Party.
The election campaign has attracted a great deal of welcome new interest in
the Labour Party, especially amongst young people but also from other age
groups who had lost faith. It has reminded the public at large that the
Leadership of the Labour Party matters, because it is , in truth , the only
alternative to a Tory Prime Minister. But the campaign has been marred by
intolerance and hostility across the party, and there is nothing that could
be more destructive for Labour. The campaign has also made Labour look
disorganised and less than competent.
There has to be unity of purpose now. There has to be an understanding that
Labour is a broad church in which tolerance is essential to success. We have
to recognise that every decision in future may not win the support of all
but there are core values and beliefs around equality, humanity and
democracy that all of us share.
Lastly, we need to look at the way the party is managed . It is too
centralised, too managerial and too process led. We need to trust our local
parties more and we must accept that in a broad church party there cannot be
uniformity of approach and outlook across regions and across local party
groups. Political priorities do vary from place to place, but our commitment
to fairness and community does not. Welfare may matter most in one ward,
public transport in another; housing is a priority every where but in
different ways, whilst saving the NHS from creeping privatisation is the
same whatever our community.
This is a time of critical political issues and Labour, for the time being,
must be the effective opposition that the country needs. And ” a new
approach to politics” also means room for internal party debate.
One thing that will unite us over the next few months and years is the crass
criticism of the Tories and their supporters in the National media.