The Labour Party is in total turmoil. Current leader Jeremy Corbyn is on course to win the September leadership contest, despite the vast majority of his own MPs wanting to see him replaced by challenger Owen Smith.
Corbyn’s critics say the party is doomed to fail under his leadership and requires a more credible alternative. His supporters argue that MPs should unite behind him and point out that he is hugely popular among the party membership.
Business Insider spoke to David Moon, a politics lecturer at the University of Bath, about Corbyn’s leadership, the upcoming leadership contest, and the future of the Labour Party. Moon is a Labour Party expert and says the party is headed for an absolute disaster if it continues down its current path.
“I always thought that Jeremy Corbyn was going to be a failure,” he told us over the phone. “I don’t think it was evident that we were going to find ourselves in a situation where the party was going to split but it was certainly clear that he [Corbyn] was not going to be able to lead the party in a successful manner.”
Asked why Corbyn has had such difficulty leading the party, Moon said the veteran socialist has three major shortcomings which have severely undermined his position. “The problem with Jeremy Corbyn and the reason why he was the worst possible candidate to articulate a hard-left policy is almost inherent in him,” he said.
Moon cited the following reasons:
- “You can’t sell a left-wing policy with his background and how he [Corbyn] looks. He is a vegetarian, teetotal, bike-riding, Dylan cap-wearing, bearded, vest-wearing, London-representing leftist from the 1980s. There is nothing wrong with that, but it allows people to dismiss what he is saying on the grounds that ‘this is typical of the left’. He personifies the sort of leftist stereotypes that makes it easy for many people to write his arguments off, regardless of their validity.”
- “He has no links to his colleagues within the parliamentary Labour Party (PLP). Corbyn and the group around him haven’t really gone out of their way to make links with their colleagues. They have their own table and their own culture. Most MPs have friends across the party and work together on a wide range of issues but we just haven’t seen that sort of engagement within the PLP.”
- “Corbyn and the people around him don’t have a history of engaging in parliament. They don’t understand how much of it works. They used to turn up, give a speech from the back benches on a particular constituency-related issue, and then leave. That means when it comes to something like putting an amendment to a bill, if they didn’t have the Labour whips there, they wouldn’t have a clue what is going on. This is why charges of incompetence have been put forward by Labour MPs and this is a really key issue.”
“If Jeremy Corbyn could demonstrate that he is able to sell a left-leaning platform people would be fine with that,” Moon added. “People aren’t against Corbyn because he is left-wing, it’s because they think he’s doing a very bad job.”
Corbyn is going head-to-head with former Shadow Work and Pensions secretary Owen Smith, who criticised the Labour leader for failing to provide a “powerful” opposition to the Tories in hustings held in Wales on Thursday evening. Moon told BI that Smith “makes sense” as a candidate to lead the party into the 2020 general election.
“The reason Smith makes sense is he is someone who is much harder to dismiss as ‘same old, same old’. He is someone who could appeal beyond the already-convinced. He is someone, vitally, he could work with people across parliament, across the membership, and across other parts of the Labour Party electoral coalition. Even colleagues who don’t agree with his politics get on with him.”
Labour MPs who want to see Corbyn gone are planning to split the party and form their own centre-left parliamentary party if he beats Smith in the upcoming contest, according to the Telegraph. New YouGov data suggests a Labour split would spell electoral disaster for the party, as the left-wing vote would be divided between two rival factions. You can read more about this here.
Moon agreed with YouGov’s analysis. “There is absolutely nothing to say that it wouldn’t be an absolute disaster. A divided left just isn’t going to do well — especially not in a First Past The Post electoral system which is almost designed to support large broad-church parties.”
Moon told us that he understands why Corbyn supporters feel aggrieved but believes they need to begin asking themselves serious questions about what the future really holds for the party under his leadership.
“They [Corbyn supporters] have told me MPs should just rejoin the shadow cabinet. Can they really do that with any believability? After the accusations that he is incompetent and not up to the job, the accusations of bullying, how can you possibly take that back? There’s a quote in the Orange is the New Black series which goes ‘toast can’t be bread again’ and I quite like that. If Labour MPs rejoined the shadow cabinet having said what they said about Corbyn’s leadership it would be completely farcical.”
“If a general election happens under Jeremy Corbyn,” he added, “Labour is facing one of the worst electoral performances in the party’s history and it seems almost impossible for Corbyn to turn that around.”
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