Chris Williamson’s resignation from the Labour frontbench shows that the party isn’t just a protest movement any more. The staunch Corbynite found himself the focus of Tory campaign graphics this week after suggesting that council tax should be doubled on some of the highest-value properties.
This afternoon, Labour confirmed that their Shadow Fire Minister had stepped down. Williamson said:
‘I will be standing down from my role with immediate effect so that I can return to the backbenches, where I will be campaigning on a broader range of issues. I will continue to loyally support the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn from the backbenches and hope to be a voice for the party’s members.’
That last clause suggests Williamson isn’t too unhappy about the effects of his comments: he clearly suspects that members will think he was pushed out by mendacious Tory campaigning featuring pictures of his face. He had insisted that his idea had the support of Labour activists, even though it wasn’t official party policy.
Labour had decided that the best thing to do during reshuffle week would be to leave the Tories to it: a tactic proved right by events. A row about the party’s plans to raise taxes dramatically was certainly not on the grid.
That Corbyn has even considered the need to ask one of his supporters to leave his frontbench shows that the Labour leader is genuinely worried about the impact that Williamson’s suggestion might have on those considering voting Labour. And this shows that now Labour wants to win, rather than remain a party with a lot of members. A year ago, it would have seemed ludicrous to suggest that Theresa May should be worried by this shift in outlook. Now, though, she really should.