Jez he did. Again.
Jeremy Corbyn has secured the leadership of the Labour party for a second time with 61.8% of the vote. Despite a concerted effort from 80 percent of his fellow Labour MPs and thousands of activists around the country, Owen Smith couldn’t quite hold back the reality of what has become the Corbyn machine. If this second leadership election has demonstrated one thing, though, it’s that, for both sides, this was about much more than just one man.
For the “moderates” – the term seemingly used to describe anybody who was anti-Corbyn – this leadership challenge was about regaining control of a party which is becoming rapidly overtaken by an unrecognisable clique. Corbyn’s supporters had a clean sweep at the NEC elections earlier this summer (although Deputy Leader, Tom Watson, managed to swing the majority back in the anti-Corbyn direction last Tuesday) and with control of the NEC and the leadership comes game-changing influence.
For Corbyn’s supporters, on the other hand, this was a fight for the far left’s future. Had Corbyn failed to have been re-elected, it is highly likely that rule changes would have followed to prevent such a feat ever happening again. It was widely reported at the start of this leadership challenge that Corbyn himself had contemplated stepping aside from the leadership, but had he done so, the parliamentary Labour party would have ensured no far-left candidate received sufficient nominations to be included on the leadership ballot in his place. Corbyn had to stand whether he deemed it appropriate to do so or not.
So, have the last 3 months been wasted? We now have a party with the same leader with a renewed mandate from the party membership. The tactic employed by Owen Smith of attempting to appease Corbyn’s supporters by bending his policy direction to reflect Corbyn’s closely appears to have largely failed. Having said this, had one of the more high-profile MPs stood in his place (e.g. Chuka Umunna, Yvette Cooper, Liz Kendall, etc.) who tend to be further to the right of the party, Corbyn’s majority would likely have been even greater. Will Corbyn’s rather patronising “come together” call made in the latter weeks of this latest leadership election be enough to bring rebel MPs back on board? Not in a million years.
Of course, several MPs will likely return to the front bench in order to attempt to create some form of unity with the threat of a snap election still looming. For other Labour MPs, this challenge will likely just be the beginning. With the prospect of an election at some stage before 2020, anti-Corbyn Labour MPs will begin to focus intently upon their constituencies to ensure they retain their seats despite the recent dire opinion polling whenever the next general election falls. During the 2015 general election, there were several reports of Labour candidates omitting to include Ed Miliband within their local campaign literature: you can bet your house that the majority of MPs will do the same should Corbyn remain leader until the next general election.
It was surprising that Corbyn opted to quote the words of the late MP, Jo Cox, in his victory speech, considering she had not previously supported his leadership. Perhaps this was what he considered to be a good way of calling for party unity. This will not be an easy task. A task which will not be made easier by the threat of deselections from a man who has defied the party line for decades on the backbenches.