Labour exodus key to taking back centre?

Behind the debate of the EU referendum, another political story has been developing this week in the Labour Party. The week started with a Times YouGov poll of Labour members which indicated that Jeremy Corbyn has in fact increased his support. 64% respondents said they would vote for Corbyn again, which is up from 59.5% in the leadership contest last September. For all the mumbling, it seems rumours of regicide where little more than that. With such strong support amongst the party faithful, triggering a leadership contest at party conference would be a wasted effort because Corbyn is not going anywhere for now.

Faced with prospect of Corbyn until the next General Election, senior frontbenchers not particularly loyal to Corbyn are eyeing up other seats of power away from Westminster. A number of high profile Labour shadow ministers are taking a page of Sadiq Khan’s book and throwing their hats in the ring to become mayors of either Liverpool and Manchester. If you really believe that Corbyn is unelectable and face being in opposition for over a decade, these devolved roles offer a very attractive escape route. With plans for further devolution, being a mayor offers real autonomy and the ability to make a difference.

The Conservatives can also take heart from senior Labour figures fighting over these devolved positions because it is a sign that their devolution agenda is working. The loss of seasoned opposition figures is never unwelcome. The difficult thing for Labour is will centrists looking for the exit door tighten the left’s control of the party in Westminster? Or will having centre-left candidates across the country provide the platforms for a progressive grassroots movement that can wrestle power back to the centre? Only time will tell.

Douglas McIlroy

Hill & Knowlton Strategies Search