For a brief moment a few days ago, it looked as if Corbyn understood the nature of the moment. He hinted that there could be a shadow cabinet reshuffle, with some of the big names currently languishing on the backbenches coming in from the cold. But just as quickly as that possibility flickered, it seems to be dying again. In the wake of this “brilliant defeat”, the good will towards Corbyn will possibly never be higher amongst the PLP (or at least, he shouldn’t count on it ever being higher than it is at present). If he takes the opportunity and brings in people like Yvette Cooper and Chuka, he has a real opportunity to unite the Labour Party in a way that would have been totally unthinkable only a week ago.
Doing so would achieve several things. It would show Corbyn was serious about winning and about creating a team capable of governing the country. He would also make the Blairites and Brownites own the current arrangement in the Labour Party – Corbyn would have the PLP back on his side again, and not just have to rely on the strange leadership election rules Ed Miliband saddled the party with to remain in charge. The party, all of it, would really be his, and for the first time as well.
Yet it seems almost certain that he won’t do this. I will eat my words if I’m wrong about this, but if Corbyn misses this opportunity to make the opposition a powerful force, I don’t see how he won’t come to eventually regret it. The seeds of any future Labour Party election victory could be planted today, if Corbyn has the vision to see the current situation for what it is.
If the Labour Party can’t unite, it will very difficult for it to win; and if somehow it did win, it would really be impossible for it to govern. The MPs supporting the leader may be of little immediate consequence while Labour is in opposition, but it becomes pretty important if you’re trying to command a majority. The general election showed the continuing appeal of the Labour brand to the electorate, and also how tired they are of Tory vanity elections. There really is a chance for Labour to win the next election, whenever it should occur, and that’s not something I would have ever thought possible before June 8th. But if Corbyn takes the election result as the victory of his will alone, then Labour could fall back into the very same problems that have plagued it for the last two years all over again. In fact, they could get worse.