Paul Stokes
November 2016.

If Corbynism fails, is there a future for Labour?

1 answer

What exactly constitutes failure for Corbynism? It’s clear that some Corbynistas, and Jeremy Corbyn himself to some extent, will not be measuring success solely as a brilliant performance at the 2020 General Election. They seem to have a longer-term strategy with other priorities, so there will be explanations if they don’t win a majority next time – the media, ‘rebels’ in the party, etc. And there will be a different narrative to previous leaders as to why they haven’t succeeded at that time. Namely, Corbyn is transforming the party and the political agenda. So it’s a work in progress.

It seems to me that the party has moved to the left and will remain there for some considerable time. The leadership seem to be appealing to a very distinct and committed group of supporters, which will attract a solid core of voters, although it does seem to leave The Conservatives with the middle ground as easy pickings. Hence why Corbynism’s success will not be judged in purely electoral terms. What’s interesting is that, as Corbyn’s reforms take hold, those MPs who subscribe to a more centrist vision may well find themselves in positions where they struggle to hold on to their local party or local electorate, so won’t be in a position to push the Labour Party back to the middle ground after the next election.

So Corbyn’s position looks, and will become, increasingly invulnerable. There have been two attempts to elect someone else, and both times Corbyn has won. Plus, the party membership has grown massively and is flourishing, with young members in numbers unseen since the 1950s. So Labour looks strong as a group and social movement, just not as an electoral force.

“Labour looks strong as a group and as a social movement, just not as an electoral force.”

It’s worth remembering that for most of the time Labour has lost General Elections – it’s the Tories who are the most successful at winning them. If you look across the whole of the party’s history Labour have been pretty unsuccessful. Opposition is its norm. It’s only the post war period, brief ventures in the 60s and 70s and the Blair years where they’ve held power. So yes there’s a future for Labour, though currently it seems like it will require a complicated scenario for Corbynism to fail and be replaced.

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