Corbyn’s Labour: The story so far

A house divided

Tristram Hunt, Anji Hunter and Chuka Umunna. Image: Financial TImes

Labour figures Tristram Hunt, Anji Hunter and Chuka Umunna. Image: Financial Times

Since the election of Jeremy Corbyn in September of this year, it has become increasingly difficult to find a united Labour. Corbyn seems to be providing a refreshing new stance for the party. The surge of new members following his election has ignited hopes for the party’s revival and reunification, after its General Election defeat. However, the party is currently riddled with faction and disunity.

The image presented is of a man dedicated to standing his ground. He provides an invigorating outlook on Labour as a man who does not falter from his beliefs, and is undoubtedly refreshing as a politician.
His pledge for freer education and the abolishment of tuition fees for university students, gained him a whirlwind of support from young people across the country. Marches in London this week have only underlined the movement that he is tapping.

Corbyn has shown himself to be a leader of loyalty and persistence, despite the cracks within his party

These are brave choices, and clearly display Corbyn’s willingness to make decisions within the party. They show a clear cut direction and agenda that it was feared he would lack.
This week, his persistence was displayed in PMQs as, for the seventh time, he asked Prime Minister, David Cameron, about the imminent tax cuts and effects on the poor. Corbyn clearly knows what he wants, what he is intending to do, and evidently will not back down.
A pointed illustration of this was his comment this week that Cameron was still not answering his questions, “after giving him a week to think about it”.

Corbyn has shown himself to be a leader of loyalty and persistence, despite the cracks within his party. There have however been many complaints about his personal beliefs, especially in relation to his Republicanism, seen in September when he was captured not singing the national anthem at the Battle of Britain memorial service.
However, there is no denying that Corbyn’s desired direction for Labour is divisive. While many agree with his policies, centrist Labour politicians are fearful of his radical approach and this is reflected in the party’s increasing division.

Hunt…was quoted as saying in Varsity, Cambridge University’s Newspaper, that the Labour Party is ‘in the shit’.

This is a division which was prophesied just months earlier in the leadership race of the Labour party and was a predominant concern of its members. In spite of Corbyn’s best efforts for clarity and democracy, his policies appear ultimately too bold for a consensus.
Tristram Hunt, former Shadow Secretary of State for Education, is one of many who are increasingly keen to vocalise his opinions of Corbyn’s Labour. he, and numerous other centrist MPs (Mike Gapes, Liz Kendall and Chuka Umunna come to mind) have been regularly attacked as ‘Red Tories’, and are showing increasing defiance.

On Monday last week, Hunt gave a speech to Cambridge University’s Labour Party and was quoted as saying that the Labour Party is ‘in the shit’. He added that it risked turning into a ‘sect’ if it did not broaden its appeal. Though not directed specifically at Corbyn, such remarks are obviously aimed at the leftmost wing of the party.

the Labour party will tear itself apart in a quest for ideological purity

Worse, Corbyn’s decision to appoint Seumas Milne as Labour’s Executive Director of Strategy and Communications has caused an uproar.  Milne’s long background of anti-Western statements and opinions has made ample fodder for controversy. His support for deselecting centrist Labour MPs has led to speculation that the Labour party will tear itself apart in a quest for ideological purity.

Seamus Milne speaking at a Stop the War rally. Image: Julia Davidson

Seamus Milne speaking at a Stop the War rally. Image: Julia Davidson

The Labour party is in a clear crisis. Despite Corbyn’s attempts at unity within his cabinet, his bold political agendas are fundamentally controversial and every week brings a new story of opposition from within. His attempts to foster a democratic debate in the party allow for unhelpful opposition from voices, like Hunt, who serve to represent the underlying current of dissent within Labour.

Even if it does appear that Corbyn possesses his own strong agenda, this week has shown that the party clearly still needs to go through many stages of renewal before a clear, cohesive direction for Labour can be established. A newer party is one thing, but unity seems far away.

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