With only a few weeks until Article 50 is triggered, the nature of Britain’s future relationship with the EU is becoming clearer. Conversely, the Tory victory in the recent Copeland by-election raises further questions about Labour’s future under Jeremy Corbyn.
Under the Spotlight
Amid claims from his supporters that the media is merely out to get him, Corbyn’s weak leadership and misguided policies remain a focal point of media attention. The slurry of resignations since last June is a testament to his perpetual inability to form some semblance of unity amongst his MPs. The recent departure of Jamie Reed and Tristram Hunt, which respectively triggered the by-elections in Copeland and Stoke, reinforce this critical incompetence.
Spawned out of trade union movements that gained prominence in the late 19th century, Labour was, in days gone by, the radical champion of workers’ rights and developed the welfare state. Though few Labour figures have achieved the Titanic reputations of Churchill and Thatcher, many — Clement Atlee, Michael Foot, Tony Benn, to name but a few —have indeed come close.
A Group of Unknowns
Yet, unique in its history, Labour’s Shadow Cabinet is comprised of somewhat unknown and relatively inexperienced politicians who appear to rotate on a near-monthly basis. Very few have had prior front bench experience under Blair, Brown or Miliband.
That is not to say that Labour MPs are at all entirely undistinguished; Hilary Benn, Angela Eagle, and Chuka Umunna, for instance, are extremely capable parliamentarians with popular followings. However, their absence from the Shadow Cabinet following the Brexit vote has contributed sorely to the experiential deficit on the opposition benches
With a handful of notable exceptions, the Shadow Cabinet is comprised of politicians who share Corbyn’s far-left and, as it seems, unelectable agenda. Yet, despite this year’s tax burden being the highest in three decades and years of Tory austerity, Corbyn’s calls for greater public spending are, perhaps paradoxically, not enough to win Labour the support it needs.
This is symptomatic of how Labour’s support base has been incrementally eroded by UKIP and the SNP over the past few years. After all, as has been widely documented, the white working class — Labour’s traditional supporters — voted overwhelmingly for Brexit, while Labour MPs (with the exception of Corbyn himself) were broadly against it.
Furthermore, for all Corbyn’s efforts to reverse the alienation of the unions by New Labour, his poor performance and refusal to accept responsibility for party failures are threatening his own vital relations with the trade organisations.
UKIP’s future is also uncertain and should the party dissolve the risk of its supporters migrating to the Conservatives could prove disastrous for Labour, and certainly fatal for Corbyn. Labour’s leader has insisted he will remain such until the 2020 election, but there is little to suggest that the Shadow Cabinet can devise and implement a strategy that will see Labour within a chance of winning an election.
The Tories, having been charged with overseeing Brexit, are of course perfectly poised to win over UKIP supporters, perhaps irrespective of whether or not leaving the EU is a success.
In any case, as the recent by-elections have shown, there is clamour for change among the British population, and those seeking it are turning towards the Conservatives, while Corbyn’s ‘new kind of politics’ is suffering an agonising death.