Hooton sees lessons for Labour in the Corbyn debacle

Matthew Hooton writes at NBR:

At the time of writing, far-left Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has lost nearly all his shadow cabinet, been humiliated 172-40 in a confidence vote by his own MPs and faced public demands for his resignation from all but the most extreme senior figures in his party. Even his immediate predecessor Ed Miliband, who began Labour’s march off to the fringes of public opinion, has said he should go.

Mr Corbyn has refused. Where historically the leadership was decided by MPs alone, UK Labour now decides on a one-person-one-vote basis among party members, “registered supporters” and members of affiliated trade unions. All have sprung into action, almost unanimously on Mr Corbyn’s behalf.

Already, rallies are being organised around the UK by Mr Corbyn’s personal support organisation, Momentum, a 21st century version of Militant Tendency which Labour struggled so hard against in the 1980s and early 90s. Twelve major unions, including the big four – Unite, Unison, GMB and CWU with a combined 3.5 million members – have joined forces to fight for Mr Corbyn. The Socialist Workers Party is also mobilising in his honour, complete with t-shirts emblazoned with “Eliminate the Right-Wing Blairite Vermin.” It’s splendid comedy exceeding, we must hope, anything that could ever happen in New Zealand politics.

Oh but wait until next year Matthew, then the real fun will begin. The only real question is, will the left-wing resort to criminal activity like they did last election?

There has to be a good chance Mr Corbyn will hold on. That 40 MPs backed him in the no-confidence vote in fact represents an improvement in his position. In the 2015 leadership contest, which he ultimately won, he struggled to get the necessary 35 MPs even to be nominated. Some who did sign his nomination have since said they did so only under the misapprehension he could not possibly win.

Mr Corbyn did win because he was able to draw in over 80,000 new “registered supporters” to the party, many of them radical activists. They, along with just under half the party’s traditional members and nearly 60% of affiliated members acting on the recommendation of union bosses, gave him an overwhelming majority. The party’s MPs and longest serving members each got just one vote, exactly the same as a new “registered supporter” who signed up two days before the ballot papers went out.

No one knows what will happen if Mr Corbyn succeeds in winning a second contest. Probably the Labour Party will split. The biggest winner will be Mr Cameron’s successor as Conservative prime minister.

There will have to be some real skullduggery to defeat Labour’s stupid leadership rules. If they can’t get rid of the snaggle-toothed fool then Labour will split…and destroy itself.

It needs to be acknowledged that our Labour Party’s leadership rules are not so biased against its professional politicians. In New Zealand, Labour MP’s votes continue to count for 40% of the final result, alongside 40% for the party’s activists and 20% for the unions.

The unions still hold a large portion of control; far larger than their financial contributions, which largely seem to correlate with the arrival of one of their members into an MP’s role.

Still, the last two Labour leaders, David Cunliffe and Andrew Little, like Mr Corbyn, have both been elected against the wishes of the majority of the party’s MPs. Mr Cunliffe had strong support among the party’s members and the unions. Mr Little had the backing of only four other Labour MPs and just a quarter of the party’s membership, becoming leader only because of the unions. This is worse than Mr Corbyn.

It is now coming up three years since the Labour caucus panicked at David Shearer’s low-to-mid 30% poll ratings and activated the leadership process that brought them Mr Cunliffe. Mr Little’s poll ratings are already well below those of Mr Shearer and Mr Cunliffe and for that matter Mr Corbyn’s.  It remains to be seen if his decision to form a de facto coalition with the Greens will reverse Labour’s slide, but the early signs are not encouraging. There is deep concern among Labour MPs that Mr Little appears as prone to bungles as Mr Shearer at his worst. In ordinary circumstances, a coup attempt would be expected.

But Labour’s MPs have known all along that trying to roll Mr Little only for the activists and the unions to impose him back on them would be the end of the road. That view is only strengthened by witnessing the shambles in the UK. A coup is now a step Labour MPs dare not take, no matter how far Mr Little falls in the polls. They’re stuck with him and the New Zealand National Party, like the UK Conservatives is laughing all the way to the next election.

There are no Labour MPs with the stones to roll Little. It is likely that he will beat David Cunliffe’s dreadful result in the 2014 election. John Key isn’t all that inspiring, but Andrew Little is no challenge to him as Brian Edwards noted the other day.



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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

To read Cam’s previous articles click on his name in blue.