I keep trying not to write stuff about Labour: I think it will be therapy but it just makes me more depressed. But events, dear boy, events.
With Corbyn’s victory now almost certain, both sides (the Corbyn camp and the PLP) have been thinking about what happens next. This piece by Stephen Bush, reporting from inside the Corbyn camp, is very revealing. First, there is an understanding that Corbyn will have to try and bring at least some of the PLP back on board. Here are two direct quotes from the article:
“If we show competence, that will bring some people back onside,” says one senior figure. Another sums up the view: “The reality is that most MPs are not out to get him every day or talking to press. There are 10 or so who are, we could both name them, but there is a winnable middle out there.”
This suggests that there are those within team Corbyn who understand that
- What I call the anti-Corbynistas - the far too vocal critics of Corbyn within the PLP - are a small minority. This is a very different picture from that held by some Corbyn supporters among the membership, who like to pretend that most of the PLP was always out to get Corbyn.
That the majority of the PLP are a “winnable middle”. Again, on most issues there is no fundamental policy divide between Corbyn and the PLP.
A major problem, as I have said many times, has been the lack of competence shown by the leadership. Once again, I have been told by many supporters that the countless complaints from MPs about this has been an exaggerated sham. Again, team Corbyn do not see it that way, which is positive (although I wish they would tell their supporters)!
As for the PLP, according to George Eaton they are following up a suggestion made by deputy leader Tom Watson to reinstate PLP elections for the shadow cabinet. It seems to me that, if suitably structured (in particular, allowing Corbyn to keep McDonnell as shadow Chancellor), this proposal could do two very helpful things for Corbyn. It would bring some of the talent among the PLP back to the front line, and it would have the possibility of rebooting Corbyn’s attempts to unite Labour. It would also give MPs something concrete to convince themselves, and tell the media, that things have changed since the vote of no confidence. But
“a Corbyn source dismissed the idea when I recently raised it: "It’s not going to happen, they don’t have the numbers to get it through conference." He added, however, that the election of a "PLP representative" was a possibility.”
It is not just about competence, but it is also about having an imaginative strategic vision. What team Corbyn should be doing now, before conference, is working with Watson to ensure that a compromise version of this idea can be agreed at conference.I am more than willing to be surprised.