Some have already started on the line that ‘the voters have spoken; we must listen to what they said’, demanding that all members rally round and support the new leader. I’m looking forward to hearing this group tell us why we should now vote for the man that they said last week was a complete and utter disaster; bad for the party and bad for the country. That should be fun.
Others will seek to ensure that their prophecies of doom are fulfilled, by trying to undermine him at every opportunity, and talking up the chances of replacing him before the next election. They are already setting some impossible bench marks for the poor man. One Labour MP has demanded that Corbyn must deliver an advance in Scotland in the Holyrood elections next May – “He has to show that he is a winner. If he can’t win back Scotland, he has a problem”. Mission impossible; but not just for Corbyn – anyone fancy the chances that any of the other three candidates would do any better on that one?
Another member of the Labour Party said something along the lines of ‘it’s alright to hold personal views as a backbencher, but as leader you have to take account of the party’s policy’. I agree with that as a principle, although it’s not a requirement which was ever expected of Blair. And actually, Corbyn’s views seem to be closer to his party’s policies as they were back in the days when members were allowed to make policy. In practice, for the last few decades, Labour’s policy has been whatever the leader says it is anyway.
If the Labour Party does indeed manage to make itself irrelevant over the coming months and years, it will be less to do with what Corbyn does and says and more to do with those people – largely Labour MPs – who have shown themselves to be hopelessly out of touch with their party’s members. On many issues, they’re actually closer to Cameron and the Tories than to Corbyn and Labour’s membership. It seems that many of them would prefer to keep a Tory government than listen to the members of their own party.
It will be interesting to see how this plays out in Wales. The margin of victory was so great that it’s impossible to believe that Welsh members of the Labour Party haven’t also voted overwhelmingly for Corbyn – will Labour in Wales now end up saying the same things as Corbyn? And where does that leave Plaid in particular? With the exception of the future direction for devolution (on which Corbyn’s views are currently as clear to me as mud) it’s hard to see much significant difference between the Plaid message in the recent UK election and the Corbyn message. Unless the national question is brought back to the centre of Welsh politics, why wouldn’t people who agree with that anti-austerity and anti-Trident message not simply vote for the party most likely to be able to deliver on it?
If Corbyn - accidentally, by forcing Plaid to behave more like a nationalist party in order to differentiate itself - succeeds in making the national question a more significant issue, his election could well turn out to be a turning point for Wales.