Jeremy Corbyn is stormin’ his way through the trade unions affiliated to the Labour party. The Communication Workers’ Union has announced it backs him in the leadership contest, not because it thinks he can win, but because it thinks his victory would drive the Blairites out of the party, and would therefore serve its purpose. This is what the union’s general secretary Dave Ward had to say about the decision:
‘We think that the Labour party needs to be shaken up, and we think that we need to loosen the grip of the Blairite wing of the party, people like Mandelson who in our view have taken this party far too much to the Right, and there is no doubt that voting for Jeremy Corbyn will assist that process. We actually put that principle of loosening their grip on this party once and for all as more important than the actual leadership qualities of any of the candidates standing, and we think Jeremy will lead that debate and out of that you will see a very different Labour party.’
In a press release, Ward claims ‘there is a virus in the Labour party and Jeremy Corbyn is the antidote’. This sort of language shows how difficult it will be for anyone to unite the party, when those of a slightly different persuasion but within the same tribe are being described as ‘viruses’.
The Blairites are having a terrible leadership election. It’s not just that their candidate, Liz Kendall, is trailing miserably behind the others, but it’s that they are struggling to win the battle of ideas, or even get much purchase with their arguments about who is the least worst candidate for those who don’t want to back Kendall. In the politics column in this week’s Spectator, I look at how the faction is in decline in the party, and its leading lights’ plans to bounce back. Chuka Umunna’s plan in particular is interesting, with the Shadow Business Secretary keen to encourage institutions that will help make centre-left arguments in the public sphere that are outside the Labour party. He thinks the Centre for Social Justice and the TaxPayers’ Alliance are good examples of how organisations outside political parties can help those inside. The TPA point out that they are a non-partisan organisation, but their arguments about responsible public spending have clearly helped the Tory party over the years. Umunna wants a similar network of influential organisations on the Left to do the same.
It’ll have to be quite a hefty network, though. As I said yesterday, the unions have shown in this contest that they are keen for a big shift in the Labour party’s policy, and any victor who isn’t called Jeremy Corbyn will find themselves in constant conflict with those powerful groups.