by Dan Payne
So Jeremy Corbyn has stamped his membership mandate on to the Labour Party once again by increasing his share of the vote from last year’s 60pc to 62pc last weekend. This is not the shock result his victory was last September—it is instead a consolidation of authority. Anti-Corbyn moderates in the party will want to slump resignedly into despair when thoughts turn to the inevitable mauling that an election would deliver. They will see that 50pc of people polled think Conservative Theresa May makes a better Prime Minister than Corbyn would and some, perhaps many, will give up hope of the party they love being able to stop itself slipping into electoral irrelevance. They shouldn’t.
The most sorely disappointing component of Corbyn’s Labour has been the shambolic lack of opposition it has provided. It is an integral Parliamentary function that the second largest party scrutinises the government and keeps them in check, honing in on their every move with a sharp eye. Too busy throwing threats and spitting venom at their fellow party comrades, the PLP have been all too lacklustre in giving the government’s actions the proper attention it deserves. A good opposition makes for a good government and vice versa; the former keeps the latter in shape and alert. Furthermore, the unglamorous graft of combing through the nitty-gritty of policy proposals pays dividends on election day.
Labour’s failure to commit to this crucial parliamentary role, should it continue, will be the real undoing of the party whenever the next election is announced in the next few years to come. And the fault of failing to aim fire at the government comes from the leader, his allies, and his team. Labour moderates must also saddle some blame, and move their attentions to the government. The sooner they face up to the fact Corbyn is leader, for now, the better for the whole of Parliament.
Many of the unknown names on the frontbench have been called up way before they have acquired the necessary experience for such vital roles in British politics and it would be cruel to undermine their desperate efforts. But without even a full Shadow Cabinet as is currently the case, where Labour frontbenchers are trying to shadow two departments at a time in some instances, it is clearly insufficient. This has come at a somewhat inconvenient time too considering it is a government that will be consumed with some of the most complex and important negotiations a modern executive has had to grapple with. The government desperately needs an Opposition to check they are doing Brexit right.
Some years of solid, effective opposition won’t mean Labour will win an election of course. But it might perhaps make the result that little bit less embarrassing for the party. It also might perhaps make Corbyn’s time on the stage that little bit less embarrassing for the party too.
This article represents the views of the author, and not the views of the Politics Society, nor of Bishop Wordsworth’s School.