The big question in Labour’s leadership contest is not whether Jeremy Corbyn will win, but how much he’ll win by. There is, it seems, an inexhaustible supply of Corbynistas standing ready to join the party – so the moderates who had hoped that a formal leadership challenge would be a vehicle of deposing him have had to think again. Neil Kinnock said this weekend that he’ll probably never live to see another Labour government. So Labour’s only hope, for now, is that the 67-year-old Corbyn might change.
During his interview on Today this morning we’ve been offered a taste of what his leadership will look like if (or, rather, when) he wins. The depressing news for Labour MPs is that it looks like it will be business as usual. But with a smiling face. When asked whether he would ‘reach out’ to his rivals in Parliament, he has this to say:
‘Of course I am going to reach out to them, as I have reached out to them in the past. But yes, of course, I do understand that. I have made it my business to talk to quite a lot of Labour MPs and will continue to do so. I hope that they will understand that we’ve been elected as Labour MPs – I am one myself, of course – and it is a huge honour and a responsibility and we have got to try and deliver for the people. It doesn’t mean everyone agrees on everything all of the time, that I understand. But the general direction – of opposition to austerity, opposing the Tories on grammar schools – those are the kind of things that unite the party these days.’
This olive branch coupled with the news that fourteen Labour MPs, including Clive Efford, who quit frontbench posts over the summer would return to their positions if Corbyn triumphed, appears to show the emergence of something novel in the Labour party: at attempt at unity. But already the signs of trouble are on the horizon. Len McCluskey in typical form has called for Corbyn’s ‘despicable’ opponents to be ‘held to account’. And another likely battle concerns the prospect of elections to the shadow cabinet. The party’s governing National Executive Committee is meeting tomorrow to discuss all this and whilst Corbyn didn’t explicitly say there should be elections, he made his views on the subject clear:
‘It’s not up to me to let people do one thing or the other, there is a thirst for greater democracy in the party, including that. The NEC is meeting on Tuesday and we’ll be discussing various options. Surely that debate is a good thing. I think there has to be a widening of the franchise for it, that I understand.’
Whilst it’s not yet known whether elections to the shadow cabinet will be backed by the party’s NEC, one thing is clear: Corbyn isn’t planning on going anywhere. When asked if he’d quit if he came to believe that he could not lead Labour to victory he said:
‘We’re here to win an election, I’m determined to do that election.’