The voting has been completed after a long campaign and tomorrow will see Jeremy Corbyn announced as the next leader of the Labour Party probably with Tom Watson (or maybe Stella Creasy) as his Deputy.
I did not vote for Jeremy Corbyn and cannot at this time, see how he can possibly become Prime Minister. In my view, we have ended up with a leader who can “preach to the already converted” but sadly hugely divisive and offputting to those people whose vote we need to win again (just like Ian Duncan Smith was when Tory leader)
However, that argument has passed and we are now in a different stage. Here’s my guide to what may happen next.
- The result will be both legitimate and clear. Jeremy Corbyn should therefore be given the opportunity to lead and expect all Labour figures to support him personally in doing that. You can do this without agreeing with all of his views and fully campaign for the party and all our representatives. That is what I intend to do and encourage others to do the same although know many people personally in my CLP and elsewhere who will quickly resign from the party.
- All of the Deputy Leadership candidates should accept posts in his shadow cabinet. They all pledged to serve whoever was the leader and their breadth will be a good balance.
- Personally, I would advise the other leadership candidates not to accept posts at least for a 12 month period. They can serve in other ways perhaps leading party commissions on particular policy areas or be loyal backbenchers focusing on community issues but it would be unfair for them to have collective responsibility on leadership positions. Similarly many MPs will refuse to serve and they should be allowed to publicly disagree on areas such as Heathrow, Trident, foreign policy and economy so freely as long as it is about policy and not personal.
- Jeremy Corbyn should consider scrapping the whipping system for Labour MPs. As he himself rebelled more than 500 times, MPs can hardly be expected to show loyalty whilst in opposition. This would actually cause major problems for the Conservatives too by scrapping the pairing system. If Labour have no idea how many MPs will support a motion, how will the Conservatives do so with such a tiny majority? The end result would be Labour MPs feeling more positive by voting on conscience more regularly with the emphasis on polite disagreement rather than personal rows..
- Jeremy Corbyn should consider spending as little time as possible in Parliament. For Prime Minister Questions, he should stick to a few key themes perhaps foreign policy, impact of austerity etc and ask factual questions rather than debating. His talents are more in communities and he has been elected to give hope to others and therefore needs to tour the whole country starting in marginal and safe tory areas.
- He will need to consider how to respond to situations where he could be perceived as hypocritical. For example, the Leader of the Opposition has certain perks and numerous invites (for example to attend state dinners with the royal family) So responsibility on the one hand may not easily fit with anti austerity on the other. It’s no coincidence that there has already been discussion about salary, special protection etc. This will be interesting to see and ironically if played well may end up being his greatest asset.
Even with these first steps, I would currently expect Jeremy Corbyn to last a maximum of two years. MPs will expect to see London choose a Labour Mayor next year and minor progress in Scotland. There will be an EU referendum which may cause tensions for all party leaders but the final key will be the 2017 local elections. If Lab are behind in those polls or do badly, I would expect MPs to act swiftly then and force a leadership contest or perhaps Corbyn himself might honourably resign/retire (he would be 68 then and almost 71 at next general election). The bookmakers are offering Evens that Jeremy Corbyn will be the Lab Leader at the 2020 general election and that seems very low.
Whatever happens, it will be an interesting and challenging time for all of the political parties and not just Labour.