What’s The Deal With The Labour Party Right Now?
It's all coming to a head next weekend - but what exactly is going on with The Labour Party?
This week marks a year since Jeremy Corbyn, or J-Corbs, became leader of The Labour Party. But, as you may have noticed, he’s found himself in the middle of another leadership contest, this time against Owen Smith. The whole thing will finally be coming to an end next weekend, with the winner to be announced on Saturday 24 September.
This is an important battle: whoever wins will be the leader of the opposition, responsible for holding the government to account, proposing alternative policies, and shaping the terms of Brexit.
So why has Corbyn been challenged so early in his term, who’s the other guy, and what’s going to happen?
Corbyn and his colleagues don’t really get on that well
By the time it actually happened, Corbyn’s landslide victory in the Labour leadership election last year seemed almost inevitable. But before the campaign started, anyone who argued that Corbyn would become the Labour leader would have been laughed out of the room.
Even though he had been a Labour MP since 1983, he had never held a role within the party and had voted against his own colleagues hundreds of times. For 32 years Corbyn had been an outsider in his own party.
The problem now is that he still is, at least within the parliamentary party. Few Labour MPs share Corbyn’s views or political approach, but since his election the Labour membership has grown massively, mainly through Corbyn supporters signing up.
The surge in membership has only helped to widen the split between Labour members and most MPs on who they think should lead the party and what policies it should pursue.
Some MPs refused to serve as shadow secretaries or ministers as soon as Corbyn was elected, while others chose to work with him. This lasted for a while – though not without a number of hiccups – at least until Brexit.
Prior to becoming leader, Corbyn had indicated that he wasn't a big fan of the EU, and even though he did campaign for Remain, his detractors argued that he hadn’t done enough to help prevent Britain leaving. Because of this, the Brexit vote kicked off a series of resignations of Labour MPs from leadership positions as they claimed they couldn’t serve under Corbyn.
Depending on who you ask, this was either a response to a failure of leadership by Corbyn or a well-orchestrated attempt at a coup.
Many thought that Corbyn might resign due to this display of a lack of confidence in his leadership, but he held firm and forced those opposing him to put forward a candidate in an election.
It’s all, to put it mildly, a bit of a s**tshow.
But Owen Smith isn’t exactly setting the world on fire
Corbyn’s initial challenger was Angela Eagle, but when Owen Smith gained more support among MPs she withdrew from the race to allow for a one-on-one campaign.
No one really knew who Smith was until he launched his candidacy – he only became an MP in 2010, though has held various roles since, including Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary under Corbyn.
Smith appears to have struggled to build a core group of supporters in the same way Corbyn has, and a large part of his vote may come from Labour members who simply want to get rid of Corbyn in favour of almost anyone else. He has also been supported by some dank memes:
So who’s going to win and what happens next?
The campaign has been pretty weird, including Owen Smith saying that he can win the Labour race because he ‘pulled’ his wife against the odds (yes, he actually said that) and Corbyn holding a press conference to announce the support of a number of members of UB40, an old British reggae band your parents could probably name two songs from.
But even with Smith saying that he feels his chances of winning are “ten out of ten”, he’s almost definitely going to lose. Polls indicate that Corbyn looks likely to win an even bigger victory than he did last year.
These means that the parliamentary Labour party will be led by Corbyn whether they like it or not, and MPs will need to work out what to do next. Some believe that they will fall back into line behind Corbyn and try their best to oppose the government’s policies, while others think they will continue holding leadership elections until they are able to get rid of him.
This seems like a pretty dire prospect, since the Labour membership – who vote for the leader – overwhelmingly support Corbyn.
Things don’t look particularly good.
What do you think? Let us know over on Twitter @MTVUK.