When facing internal dissent, Corbyn must have faith in the popularity of his convictions

22 Sep 2015

 

Never before has there been such a stark contrast between the hopes and dreams of Labour members and the wishes of the party’s politicians. Jeremy Corbyn’s landslide victory in the party's leadership election was the largest mandate ever won by a Labour leader. Yet, his standing amongst fellow colleagues is fragile, to say the least. With the public backing of few MPs, Corbyn’s appointment as leader has dragged the party into uncharted territory, leaving it divided in a way that arguably surpasses the bitter arguments of the early 1980s. However, what differs from three decades ago is the wide-ranging support that Labour’s new leader has received from an electorate that is desperate not only for change within the Labour Party, but also within politics as a whole. Corbyn’s clean, concise and open style has resonated with ordinary voters, many of whom were disillusioned and fed-up before the 66-year-old’s leadership campaign took the country by storm.

 

Across the political spectrum, people have been enthused and invigorated by a man with whom they find it easy to identify. In stark contrast to Ed Miliband, Corbyn is no enigma. The latter's clearly defined views are easy for voters to understand. This has helped Corbyn to connect with voters who were frustrated with Miliband’s inability to simply spell out his beliefs. In this age of centralised, diluted politics, it is clear that voters are crying out for leaders who are confident about their views, and are not afraid to be challenged on them.

 

This is exactly the image that Corbyn must portray. His first week as leader has been characterised by frontbench resignations and public grumblings from hostile MPs. However, instead of worrying about disgruntled members of the PLP, Corbyn must prove to his army of grassroots supporters that he is serious about changing the Labour Party. Respect is hard to accrue in politics, particularly from voters with a chronic distrust of politicians. However, if Corbyn fights for his principles, he will gain the admiration of individuals across the country.

 

Of course, Corbyn cannot embark on a one-man crusade against the Blairite wing of the Labour Party; he requires the wholehearted support of sympathetic MPs. Angela Eagle, Hilary Benn and Owen Smith – all members of Labour’s 'soft left' – have been awarded important roles in the Shadow Cabinet. Moreover, while Corbyn’s decision to name John McDonnell as Shadow Chancellor may have caused friction amongst moderate MPs, his appointment will assist the new leader immeasurably as he and his closest parliamentary ally solidify an economic agenda.

 

Unification behind a strong and clear leader is crucial to Labour's future success. By throwing their toys out of the pram and refusing to cooperate with their new, democratically-elected leader, the moderate wing of the party may harm the party and its chance of regaining power. By failing to put the interests of Labour supporters (who, let us not forget, have overwhelmingly put their faith in Corbyn) before their personal views, Blairites will sound condescending and, above all else, clueless. Who are they, the servants of the people, to berate Labour supporters for making the 'wrong' choice? Acting in such a way will do little to quell the fears of many voters that Corbyn is fighting an uphill battle against a party that is praying for him to fail.

 

It is an understatement to say that the challenges facing Corbyn are monumental, but he must remain resolute if he is to lead a significant political movement. The new Labour leader must remember that he has the overwhelming support of the party’s members, and that their backing is far more important than antipathy of his fellow MPs. With the odds stacked against him, Corbyn must fight for the issues on which he was elected. He owes it to his supporters, to his party and, ultimately, to politics as a whole.

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