Isabel Hardman

Labour’s moderates are stuck until they can solve their membership problem

Labour's moderates are stuck until they can solve their membership problem
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We are still not entirely sure when the Labour leadership contest will end, but in these dusty days of recess, it is certainly keeping everyone nicely busy. Today Owen Smith received a boost from trade union GMB, which decided to endorse his bid to take over from Jeremy Corbyn. Its members voted 60-40 to endorse Smith, and General Secretary Tim Roache said ‘GMB members cannot afford for Labour to be talking to itself in a bubble for the next five years while the Tories run riot through out rights at work, our public services and our communities’. This drew yet another combative - and slightly curious - response from Team Corbyn after yesterday’s conspiracy theories fun. Sophy Ridge reports that the current elected leader’s aides said:

‘This is not unexpected, we heard that there had been a well-funded and orchestrated effort from certain rightwing political officers at the GMB close to Watson and Smith. But we still have the majority of affiliated trade union support and we didn’t have the GMB’s nomination last year and we still won.’

Certainly the response that Labour MPs are getting from their memberships so far - and the bulk of CLP nominations for Corbyn - suggest that Smith may be able to keep his nomination as a consolation prize after a defeat. And the question of what happens after that defeat persists: today newly-appointed Labour mayoral candidate for the Liverpool City Region and Corbyn ally Steve Rotheram said that MPs ‘should reflect what the membership who select them are putting them into parliament to do’. The perfect revenge for Corbynites after a likely re-election for their leader would be to try to deselect Corbyn’s most vocal opponents, using the boundary changes as a trigger. The riposte from those moderates to Rotheram would be that the membership has more and more people in it who want to change Labour, rather than sharing its aims and values as they stand on the membership card now. But they’re not doing a great job of recruiting people who share their view that Corbyn will leave Labour talking to itself in a bubble for the next five years.

In his Guardian column today, Owen Jones says Jeremy Corbyn’s opponents need to take a hard look at themselves for bringing the Corbynite revolution upon themselves. Certainly in order to gain power again, the moderates need to work out how to recruit like-minded members who aren’t so put off by the current state of the party that they don’t think it is worth their while to join. There is currently little evidence that they’ve made much progress on that since last summer, when they were truly dismal in their efforts to win new members for their cause. They had a well-organised coup against the leader, with a drumbeat of frontbench resignations lasting for days. But they haven't managed to organise a Labour membership that recognises a dud leader when it sees it and thinks he should be remove. Until they do that, Labour is going to remain in a terrible mess.