Jeremy Corbyn’s lack of experience in office makes it hard to predict how he will act as Labour leader. His tens of thousands of supporters are crowing that a new political age will begin on Saturday and are looking forward to a shadow cabinet made of like-minded folk from the hard-left — Diane Abbott, Michael Meacher etc. But the signs so far suggest that Corbyn as Labour leader will operate differently to Corbyn to march leader.
Today’s Guardian offers an explanation why. The list of shadow cabinet ministers who would refuse to serve under Corbyn is growing, along with a unease among Labour MPs about a split between its Parliamentary party and grassroots. Chris Leslie, Emma Reynolds, Yvette Cooper and Tristram Hunt have all definitely said no, while Chuka Umunna and Mary Creagh among others are seen as likely to decline a shadow cabinet perch. But the paper also reports that the left-wing Compass group, whose leader Neal Lawson voted for Corbyn, is expected to call on him to ‘appoint a broad-based shadow cabinet’.
Even the man himself has said his leadership will not be a closed shop. In a recent article for the New Statesman, Corbyn acknowledged the thousands and thousands of new members his campaign has apparently brought into the party, but also his primus inter pares role as leader:
‘We need to draw on all the talents and ideas, no matter which wing of the party they come from. The way we settle disagreements must be through democracy, not back-room deals or leadership diktat.
‘So I will welcome a plurality of views, with strong shadow ministerial teams in each department to hold this government to account and to lead public campaigns against the damage of cuts and privatisation. We need people dedicated to their brief who are able to work co-operatively with the party to set out a shared vision for their area consistent with a more equal, democratic and inclusive society.’
If Corbyn does indeed win on Saturday, there are signs that his leadership could be something of a damp squib after months of fretting about how dangerous and radical he could be. Instead of a radical leadership team, Corbyn could end up trying to lead a ragtag coalition of disparate political figures who can’t find much to agree on. If he softens his positions on nuclear disarmament and national security for example, his fanatical supporters would cry betrayal. The irony of Corbyn ‘doing a Blair’ and compromising even just some his principles for party unity would lead to some very unhappy Labour party members.