Not a day seems to pass without further news of fractured relationships within the Conservative Party at the moment. Whether it is further jockeying for the leadership race (which isn’t actually likely to happen for at least 3 years) or more arguments over Europe, it seems that the Tories are (at best) on the brink of civil war, or (at worst) already in the midst of it. Despite all this, however, the Coservatives remain comfortably ahead of Labour in most major Westminster Voting Intention Polls. Meanwhile, Ruth Davidson’s Tories in Scotland are slowly gaining support, while in London, Zac Goldsmith is making up ground on Sadiq Khan.
What seems clear is that, despite the internal conflict, the Conservatives are still sitting pretty in the polls, or at least sitting at a level which is more than respectable for a party one year into government. This is thanks to one man – Jeremy Corbyn. It is still remarkable to think that the classic example of a parliamentary rebel is now leading his party, and standing at the despatch box for Prime Minister’s Questions on a Wednesday lunchtime. Corbyn’s leadership has arrived with perfect timing for the Conservatives, for three main reasons.
Firstly, it has brought even greater crisis to the Labour Party. With a Shadow Cabinet made up of staunch left-wing socialists and Blairites more akin to the Liberal Democrats, internal conflict within the opposition is more pronounced and obvious than the EU divides within the Tories. Furthermore, last week’s revelation of Corbyn’s secret list of friends and enemies has increased war lines further, with a “hostile” Chief Whip and a “neutral but not hostile” Shadow Leader of the House sitting on the same frontbench as the likes of Corbyn and John McDonnell. Ultimately, the crisis going on inside the Labour Party is so great, and so comically far-fetched, that it is still receiving buckets of air-time, making the Tories’ divisions seem comparatively minor.
Secondly, the weakness of the Labour leadership’s PR team has meant that there is no need to try and cover up or hush down internal conflict. Long gone are the days of Blair’s slick media operation, with the likes of Alastair Campbell and Jonathan Powell running the show, and now Corbyn’s team have taken media management back to the dark ages. Any average party leader would have used his weekly questions to rub salt into the wounds of the opposing party. However, Corbyn has decided to bypass this glorious opportunity to humiliate Cameron, and turn his piece into a radio phone in, where he doesn’t even ask his own questions. Labour MP John Woodcock certainly disagrees with Corbyn’s bizarre strategy, describing it as a "f*****g disaster."
Finally, Woodcock is right again when he says that Corbyn is a “laughing stock.” The simple fact that this man is leader of the Labour Party is enough for the Conservatives to rip themselves to pieces without serious worries. The howling of laughter from Tory MPs accurately reflects what the country really thinks of this man, and Cameron’s declaration that Corbyn ought to “put on a proper suit, do up your tie, and sing the national anthem” rings true – we have a Leader of the Opposition who doesn’t even look the part, let alone play it.
The Conservatives need to sort themselves out. But right now, they do not need to seriously worry about it. If they keep allowing Labour to pull itself apart at a faster rate than they are, the outlook for their electoral prospects is set fair for 2020. Ultimately, Jeremy Corbyn, the hero of the left, is saving the Conservative Party. His presence at PMQs loses the party more votes every week, and if Tory backbenchers keep doing what they do best (pointing and laughing at the Labour frontbench), then the party should ride the internal storm and humiliate Corbyn further in 2020. It is easy to see why Cameron and the Conservatives are “core support” for Corbyn.