Jeremy Corbyn, the 200/1 rank outsider just a few short months ago, has made history by storming to victory in the Labour leadership contest. The left-winger took nearly 60% of the first round vote, his nearest rival, Andy Burnham took just 19% with Yvette Cooper taking 17% and Liz Kendall a distant 4th with 4.5%. It seems part of the reason for the landslide victory were new rules implemented by the last leader Ed Miliband which allowed a flood of non-party members and union affiliates to vote.
Despite his massive victory, Corbyn faces a huge uphill battle to try to rally the Parliamentary Labour Party behind him, which was overwhelmingly opposed to his leadership. In the hours after the announcement was made, a number of the Labour MPs have said they are unwilling to serve the new leader, these include Ms Kendall, Yvette Cooper, Tristram Hunt, Chuka Umunna, Mary Creagh, Chris Leslie, Ivan Lewis and Emma Reynolds. It has been quoted that over 90% of Labour MP’s would not have picked Corbyn as their first choice for the leadership. Appealing for loyalty is not made any easier by the fact that Corbyn himself has been a serial rebel under previous Labour leaders, defying the party whip more than 500 times as an MP.
One of the new leader's first jobs was appoint a shadow cabinet. For the position of shadow chancellor Corbyn has appointed another hardliner in John McDonnell. McDonnell said after the appointment “In the first week of a Labour government, democratic control of the major economic decisions would be restored by ending the Bank of England’s control over interest rates,” adding “bringing the nationalized and subsidized banks under direct control to force them to lend and invest their resources to modernize our economy and put people back to work”. Richard Murphy, one of Corbyn’s so called ‘economics gurus’ said the Bank of England governor could be sacked if they refused to print money for his spending projects.
Lord Mandelson, writing in the Sunday Times yesterday, said the victory was a ‘leap backwards’ for the party. He added “We may not see an immediate, dramatic collapse, as many voters may even be attracted initially by Corbyn’s populism and anti-Establishment pitch. But that is not the same as deciding he should be Britain’s next prime minister”. He finished by saying “The danger is that Labour simply decides to muddle through, resigning ourselves to our fate rather than doing anything big enough to alter it”.
One very interesting aspect in all this is just how the Conservative party plays this out. Do they go on the attack straight away knowing that the Labour party is weak on the issues of immigration and the economy or do they just give Corbyn enough rope? PM’s Questions this week will be well worth tuning into.