Isabel Hardman

What if Jeremy Corbyn has a successful start as Labour leader?

What if Jeremy Corbyn has a successful start as Labour leader?
Text settings

Jeremy Corbyn has taken to the Times to defend his Labour leadership campaign and attack both the press and his critics within his own party. He writes:

‘Despite the barrage of attacks, hysteria and deliberate misrepresentation of the positions my campaign has put forward, it is our message which is resonating.’

He’s right about his message resonating with the Labour membership. He may even enjoy some resonance with the general public for a while after his election as Labour leader. Indeed, that his message resonates with voters through by-elections and local authority elections is what Corbyn’s critics in his own party fear the most. ‘I don’t know!’ cried one anti-Corbynite when I asked him how, if a Corbyn-led Labour party manages to win by-elections, do well in council elections and enjoy a poll bounce that gives it the illusion of being electable in a general election, his critics can get rid of him. They might argue that none of these victories are really the vital signs of a party being a serious prospect for a general election. But Corbyn will demand their evidence to back up their theory that he and his politics are unelectable. Where will those critics find it?

Today he has set out that ‘Labour must become a campaigning force dedicated to defeating the Conservatives’ politics, and then to defeat them electorally in 2020’, which means Labour will fiercely oppose and argue against the Tories, rather than converging in the centre ground for a fight. He will say that this approach will win Labour a general election, and if he’s fighting for an election win rather than the comfort of opposition, then what can his Labour opponents say in response? They will say plenty, of course, but for the time being, some of them do seem rather worried that they don’t have a strategy for a superficially successful Corbyn administration.