The spotlight moves a little away from Jeremy Corbyn this week as a result of Lib Dem conference and Ashcroft’s allegation concerning the prime minister’s pig related activities – but Labour conference starts in Brighton five days from now resulting in more coverage of Corbyn than ever. He’s turned down Marr twice now – no mass media as the tool of Satan quips will allow him to dodge it again, and definitely not while Labour conference is on.
The problem with Corbyn’s start as leader isn’t that he’s been a little out of his depth or had a few unfortunate incidents (although he has had both), it’s that he seems to now not really want the job that’s been unexpectedly thrust upon him. The left of Labour, therefore, must be hoping he gets better – but planning for if he does not.
And I have no doubt they are or will be very soon. The idea must be that if Jeremy just can’t handle it and wants to step down, the whole thing must seem like an assassination by the right of the party. The blame must accrue to the non-left elements of the party, particularly within the PLP. Because at the next leadership election, they not only will want their candidate to win, but with a mandate as large as Jeremy had. A way to demonstrate to the right of the party that Corbyn wasn’t some sort blip; some one off emotional reaction to the general election. Because if they pull off two stonking leadership election victories in a row, they can say to the right, “You see? This is our party now, we’ve got it back forever”.
True, there is a dearth of quality leadership contenders on the left of Labour – but as was aptly demonstrated during the leadership contest just gone, this is balanced equally by the lack of plausible leadership possibilities on the right.
Labour could even get more members from the left if Lib Dem conference is anything to go by. While all the new, mostly young members tend to be properly liberal, with nothing but distain for Corbynism, I’ve spoken to a few older members, those who joined during the New Labour years and saw the Lib Dems as a left-wing alternative to Blair, that are quite taken with Jeremy’s politics. I don’t doubt there are even more Greens feeling the same way.
So the right of Labour should not feel triumphant about Jeremy’s bad first week (to their credit, almost none of them are). Whatever happens to Corbyn, there stands behind him a whole army of leftists who aren’t about to crawl quietly back into the shadows.