How Corbyn’s rule over Labour could potentially come crashing down.
“Corbynmania” is under threat. While Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn defied the odds in September to take charge of the party, and attracted over 60,000 new members to his cause in the process, his initial wave of success might come tumbling down after all.
Since the tragic events unfolded in Paris last week, the House of Commons has undergone much debate about whether or not to sanction air strikes against the death cult Daesh (or IS), who are emerging as a threat in Iraq and Syria. France and the US have recently upped the ante of strikes in the region, with France heavily bombarding Raqqa. Now, the United Kingdom is looking to flex its muscles in the region too.
Naturally, the Conservatives have firmly backed air strikes. Labour, on the other hand, are split. Being led by Jeremy Corbyn, who is reputed for being a pacifist, the party is opposing the airstrikes. Being one of the main critics of the Iraq invasion in 2003, and blaming the rise of Islamic extremism on the West’s persistent interference in the Middle East, one would expect Mr Corbyn to stick to his guns on his anti-war ethics.
Yet many in his party do not share his ideals. Dozens of Labour MPs, including shadow ministers, have put pressure on the left-wing leader to let them vote in favour of the airstrikes. If they are not allowed to do so, they will rebel – so they have warned.
Clearly, remnants of Blairism still linger in the party. One senior MP said: “Unless Jeremy gives MPs a free vote on this, he is going to face a big rebellion. It’s not that we are warmongers – far from it. It’s a difficult dilemma.”
This is not the only case of conflicting interests in the party. Take the EU debate, for instance. As a traditional left-winger, Mr Corbyn is very sceptical of the European Union – as many of his predecessors were; such as Tony Benn. Whilst not outright opposing Britain’s membership in the EU, he is clearly ambiguous on the issue. Being leader of a party that is overwhelmingly pro-EU, he will no doubt be pressured into making a compromise – even if it later turns out to be against his personal wishes.
Trident is a key issue too. Being a staunch advocate against a nuclear-free world, Mr Corbyn has repeatedly expressed his desire to scrap Britain’s nuclear-deterrent system. While he is backed on this issue by colleagues such as Dianne Abbott and Ken Livingstone, many have voiced their opposition to Mr Corbyn’s wishes; including shadow defence minister Kevan Jones – who said: “I’m not sure Ken [Livingstone] knows anything about defence”. Wes Streeting MP of Ilford North also took the opportunity to bash Ken Livingstone for his approval to scrap the issue – doing so on twitter.
One shadow minister also referred to Mr Corbyn as a “f***ing disgrace“, echoed by many disapproving members of the Labour Party, after the Labour leader denounced the ‘shoot-to-kill’ policy operated against Islamic terrorists in Syria.
Clearly there is much division in the party; something to be anticipated when radical change occurs in any political party’s leadership. However, unless it is cemented over, then it could potentially cause problems for Labour’s chance to challenge the incumbent Conservative Party. Mr Corbyn is clearly under pressure from many of his shadow ministers.
To maintain solidarity in the party, for now, Mr Corbyn will have to no doubt compromise on his beliefs. And he has done this already. He was due to speak at an engagement, prior to the Paris attacks, warning against the perils of bombing in Syria – yet he cancelled on this. A seemingly cautious move.
Corbyn has made his position on Syrian intervention clear in recent months.
However, will he be able to continue compromising? Jeremy Corbyn is a principled man after all. Having a long streak of rebelling against the Labour Party’s decisions in the past – including the Iraq war and raising tuition fees – he will no doubt be eager to continue this as party leader. However, it will be tough for him – especially as he is receiving pressure not only from his own party, but from the right-wing press; who is clearly keen to nit-pick at him, whenever they get the opportunity.
It’ll be interesting to see how he responds to this pressure over the coming years. It seems that there are three distinct possibilities: compromise on his principles (the principles which won him such a strong wave of support), ignore those who oppose his wishes (this could weaken the party), or simply be pushed out as Labour leader.
Also, the current situation isn’t helped by the fact that Mr Corbyn’s approval rating had plummeted a month after his victory in the leadership elections. It went from -8 at the end of September, to -20 at the end of October, according to a YouGov poll.
No one can really say for sure what will happen. However, to mount a serious challenge to David Cameron’s government, Jeremy Corbyn needs to urgently unify his fragmented party behind a common interest, or compromise on his ideals. Unless he can solve this dissent, he can wave goodbye to his hopes of becoming Prime Minister.