How to save the Labour Party: Jeremy Corbyn must step up and unite the faithful – and they must respect his mandate

How to save the Labour Party: Jeremy Corbyn must step up and unite the faithful – and they must respect his mandate

These are frustrating times for anyone who wants to see a Labour Government. With the Tories tearing themselves apart over Brexit, communities struggling with the impact of austerity and public services buckling under the strain of cuts, this should be when Labour is giving voice to the concerns the rest of the country is singing.

Instead, it has spent its summer trying to firefight claims about anti-Semitism, bullying and intimidation.

The uneasy truce established within the Parliamentary Party after Jeremy Corbyn saw off the leadership challenge by Owen Smith in 2016 is at risk of being shattered.

The party is awash with rumours of splits and defections.

Other MPs could follow Frank Field by resigning the whip and some may try to establish a new party.

This is not a new situation for Labour.

Throughout its history, the tensions between the left and right of the party have flared up, whether it was fury at Ramsay MacDonald’s decision to form a national government, frustration at Clement Attlee’s caution or the bitter factionalism of the early 1980s.



Ramsay MacDonald’s decision to form a national government caused a stir in the Labour Party

During most of those moments, the party found a way to cling together and maintain the broad church which saw Herbert Morrison and Nye Bevan in the 1940s, and Peter Mandelson and Tony Benn in the 1990s, stay in the same congregation.

The lessons of what happened when the Labour Party did split still act as a cautionary warning for those contemplating a new party.

They witnessed the creation of the Social Democrat Party and saw the only outcome of this ultimately fruitless endeavour was to cost Labour victory in the 1983 and 1987 general elections.

Sentimentality and solidarity are intrinsic to Labour’s DNA but the situation at the moment is so dire even these strong values may not be enough to keep the party together.

It is personality rather than policy which lies at the heart of Labour’s problems. The majority of the party has embraced Corbyn’s agenda, albeit some more willingly than others.

The battles are not over the domestic agenda of renationalisation, greater redistribution and investing in our public services. The exception is Brexit where the party is still wrestling with the need to appeal to those who believe our departure is a disaster without alienating many traditional Labour voters who welcome the opportunity to regain control of our borders and thrive as an independent nation.



MP Frank Field

Other MPs could follow Frank Field by resigning the whip

While Corbyn’s stance on Brexit remains a source of frustration, there is an understanding as to why he has adopted a nuanced position, not least because this ambivalence proved successful at the general election.

The dissatisfaction with him stems from his style of leadership and the perception that he has not done enough to tackle the alleged anti-Semitism and abuse of party members carried out in his name.

Supporters will rightly point out that Corbyn has a long history of fighting racism and deplores any form of hatred, intolerance and intimidation.

They also argue that the allegations of anti-Semitism have been whipped up by a right-wing media which found its other attacks on Labour to have fallen flat.

Accusations of racism and entryism can also be levelled at the Conservatives but they receive far less coverage.

However unfair, the responsibility lies more heavily on Labour to adhere to the highest standards in order to ­protect itself from a biased press. This requires stronger leadership from Jeremy ­Corbyn.



Those opposed to Mr Corbyn’s leadership need to respect the mandate given to him in two leadership contests

He cannot trade on his reputation for decency and a history of fighting injustice when Jewish Labour MPs are receiving appalling and unjustifiable anti-Semitic abuse.

Nor is it sufficient to stand aside or issue only the mildest of rebukes when supporters acting in his name turn on those who are not ­unswervingly loyal to the leadership.

Equally, those opposed to Mr Corbyn’s leadership need to respect the mandate given to him in two leadership contests.

For Labour to win the next general election, it needs to remain that broad church that welcomes people from all sides of the party.

And the only person who can deliver that message to those trying to divide the faithful is the leader.

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