Parties united in division
Traditional discourse suggests Jeremy Corbyn is not a good leader of the Labour Party. Yet despite his unpopularity with his own parliamentary party, he’s still managed to make some small changes to align his shadow cabinet with his own views. Last night Corbyn completed his reshuffle, getting rid of a few people in minor positions and replacing them with people more amenable to his point of view, and replacing his defence spokesman with someone who shares his views on not replacing the Trident nuclear missile. Predictably, some have grumbled about the removal of certain individuals, though of course this has not led to anything like the ‘carnage’ predicted by some. Labour MPs are not natural rebels and Corbyn knows this. By using ‘salami slice’ tactics to remove critics from positions of influence, the Labour leader is playing the long game and will likely make further such changes in the months (and years) ahead. Eventually even the totemic Hilary Benn in the foreign affairs brief will be isolated and could be removed (or ignored) easily. The Labour moderates will need to recognise this if they have a hope of regaining control of their party before 2020.
In another sign of division, yesterday the Prime Minister announced that Cabinet Ministers would be allowed to campaign on either side during the EU referendum, once the renegotiation package had been agreed with other EU leaders. This is a deft piece of party management by David Cameron, knowing full well that he leads a party a majority of whom wish to leave the EU. Without this pressure release, Cameron would certainly have lost some significant members of the Cabinet and potentially split the Conservative Party in two. It remains to be seen whether this is enough to contain the situation, and critics have said this undermines his leadership. Either way, this could be the end of the Cameron premiership. Unless he can successfully shepherd Britain to remain in the EU and keep his party together, he will likely have no desire to either negotiate the UK’s exit or manage a badly damaged Conservative Party. We may have a new Prime Minister before the year is out.