Jeremy Corbyn became leader of the Labour Party on the 12th of September 2015, achieving an astonishing 59.5% of first-preference votes in the first round. Why then, if Corbyn has such a commanding mandate from its members just under a year ago is his leadership under threat? It stems from where Corbyn’s support comes from – or rather, where it didn’t come from; the Labour MPs. The tensions between Corbyn and the Parliamentary Labour Party has heightened to new levels recently, with 63 resignations from the Shadow Cabinet and Parliamentary Private Secretary combined with an overwhelming vote of no confidence in Corbyn’s leadership.
This is the result of a multitude of factors, including – and not limited to -the sacking of the Shadow Foreign Secretary Hilary Benn, his minor role in the EU referendum and his perceived lack of electability.
The lack of confidence in Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership is not contained within Labour MPs. According to a recent YouGov poll, 48% of Labour members believe Corbyn is doing badly as leader of the Labour Party, with a ComRes poll showing 40% of Labour voters in the 2015 General Election believe Theresa May would be the better Prime Minister between the two with 36% thinking otherwise. Overall, 58% of voters think May would be the better Prime Minister, with ‘don’t know’ in second with 28%, and Corbyn third with 19%.
YouGov currently position Corbyn to win the next Labour leadership election, beating Owen Smith 56% to 34%. This would be the worst of both worlds for the Labour Party. Primarily, Corbyn would be wounded, but not disposed. His leadership undermined by his own Party, but continues to carry the flame. How can the public trust and believe in a leader where his own men do not? Whilst many people share Corbyn’s ethos and values, he is not a leader.
If Corbyn wins, it will mean a continuation of his failed tactics and strategies, from his minor role in the EU referendum to his lacklustre performances in Prime Minister’s Questions. He let Cameron off the hook many times, and it does not look to change with May. Corbyn failed to exploit and continue questioning May after her dodging the question of Boris Johnson’s previous use of racist terms. It should be inconceivable for May’s toughest question to come from her own backbenches, not the Leader of the Opposition. It’s shameful that the biggest challenges the Conservative Party face are from themselves.
Corbyn winning will also spark bigger problems. It seems to be inevitable for the Labour rebels – the vast majority of the PLP – to split off and create a new Party. However, if and when a new Party is formed it will unlikely to survive. Firstly, the first-past-the-post electoral system unconsciously acts against smaller, newer Parties preventing them from growing. Secondly, the new Party would lack the ‘Labour’ image, which is so important – the electorate by-and-large vote for the Party, not the politician. Who would gain from a Labour split? Everyone else, it would split the Labour vote. UKIP would see it as an opportunity to seize disenfranchised Northern towns. Conservatives to take marginal seats and the SNP to solidify control over Scotland. The Liberal Democrats could also gain through taking pro-EU voters, who desire a unified Party.
Labour will be doomed to the history books if Corbyn wins, as it would mean a continuation of his failed strategies and tactics. His image would be perceived to be toxic to the public if he were to win, wounded but not disposed by his Party. The formation of a new Party is on the cards, which would split the vote, furthering Labour’s dismal performance. The best thing for the Labour Party is for Corbyn to resign, but that’s hardly likely to happen.