The Labour Party – Its Current State and Future
The issue of anti-Semitism continues to cause headaches within the Labour Party, as it searches for a solution to a problem that has existed for years. Allegations of anti-Semitic remarks made by some members of the Labour Party have prompted a possible police investigation to be made, which will no doubt hamper efforts to resolve the issue across the party.
Elsewhere, Brexit continues to create division within the party. The leadership continues to support a ‘soft’ Brexit approach, which involves respecting the referendum held in 2016, but working towards a deal that produces as close of a relationship as possible with the European Union without being a member; this can mean membership of the single market and customs union. The Labour Party Conference back in September of this year demonstrated evident divisions, leading to Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell saying that “all options” are on the table.
Underpinning all of this is the question of confidence in the leadership. It’s clear that Jeremy Corbyn has ruffled a few feathers within the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) since he became the leader in 2015. Corbyn’s political ideology sets himself out from the so-called ‘centrist’ block of Labour MPs such as Chukka Umunna, favouring a left-wing agenda that seeks to extend government involvement within areas such as the economy, through nationalisation or higher tax rates, for instance. While Jeremy Corbyn has won the favour of a majority of the membership; his Parliamentary colleagues do not share as much of a loving opinion of the man. This has led to numerous divisions, going so far as to result in an attempted coup and subsequent leadership challenge in 2016.
Can the Labour Party win an election?
They most certainly can win an election. Historically, Labour is no stranger to government, having held government power of some kind since 1924 (whether it be an electoral majority or minority role). Its popularity was noticeable with Clement Attlee, who stormed to power in 1945 with nearly 400 seats being controlled. Similarly, Tony Blair and his ‘New Labour’ rebrand led to a dominant victory in 1997, with 418 seats – ultimately enabling him and Gordon Brown to keep Labour in power for 13 years.
And even in the present day, Labour isn’t faring too badly. The pendulum of politics has swung in favour of the Conservatives for eight years, but history has shown that parties run out of steam, and the opposition will inevitably have their time in the spotlight afterwards. Its present electoral performances are something I will discuss in my next section – on Jeremy Corbyn.
Can the Labour Party win with Jeremy Corbyn in charge?
I believe so. This question is certainly controversial and depending on your point of view, Corbyn could either produce a victory harking back to Blair in 1997, or on the complete opposite of the spectrum, a miserable defeat similar to Michael Foot in 1983.
For me, Jeremy Corbyn offers something refreshing to politics, even three years into his tenure as Labour leader. His ideas have inspired a generation of new members to appear, with his efforts contributing to Labour having the highest number of party members in the country (540,000 as of September 2018), compared to the Conservatives who have only 124,000 (as of September 2018). And though he has faced hardship over the years, including that coup I mentioned, and a leadership challenge from Owen Smith, he has overcome these obstacles. Many people, including myself, thought that the 2017 General Election would be a disaster for Labour. Theresa May had all the cards in her hands, and a victory similar to Margaret Thatcher’s electoral achievements looked almost certain. In the end, she won of course. But, it was a bitter and hollow victory. And the Labour Party, which looked set to be wiped out, ultimately gained 30 seats. Prior to the General Election, the local elections were held. And in that case, again Corbyn oversaw gains, in contrast to Theresa May experiencing defeat overall.
Of course, the recent controversies shouldn’t be put aside, such as the situation of anti-Semitism. Indeed, the Labour Party has gone through some tough times in recent memory, and to an extent, Jeremy Corbyn must take some responsibility for the state of his party. However, when you factor in the role of some Labour MPs who actively try and undermine his leadership, as well as the activities of a right-wing British press in trying to support the Conservative Party and present facts and opinions in a biased manner, against the Labour Party mind you, it would be unfair to blame him entirely.
In the end, the buck has to stop somewhere, and ultimately that must be the leader. However, I believe that the Labour Party can win with Jeremy Corbyn. He should be given until the next election to answer this question. If he wins, then I envision a country that will be transformed for the better, away from the corrosive and damaging policies of the Tory Party that have run this country nearly into the ground for almost a decade, and will instead create a fairer nation, with a fairer economy, a fairer set of regulations and rights, and a fairer outlook on the world. I hope that the Labour Party can pull itself together, resolve its issues, and focus on providing the scrutiny the Conservative government needs, and in doing so prepare itself for government.