The Labour party conference in Brighton is in full swing, the Corbyn party faithful are here. As conference approached party staffers were talking about taking conference more seriously than in recent years, the prospect of a general election set against the Brexit backdrop had some hoping this was a conference to sell the party to a wider public, perhaps even business.
The past 24 hours however has not gone well. This is still a party talking to itself. A failed attempt to remove deputy leader, Tom Watson and a conference agreeing to integrate private schools into the state sector. Big cheers at conference, but hardly a burning issue outside the secure zone. We have also had the resignation of head of policy, Andrew Fisher. He isn’t a household name, but it’s hard to overstate his centrality to Corbyn’s regime. Fisher has been the ideology behind Corbynism, and one of the few people who is – or was – truly in Corbyn’s inner circle. The official explanation was that his resignation was to spend more time with his family; but it’s reasonable to assume that there was a degree of acrimony, which led to his comments in The Times. It’s hardly ideal, and this is a Corbyn loyalist.
The party leadership also remains split over Brexit. The pro-remain motion before conference later looks increasing likely to pass over Jeremy Corbyn’s backed compromise motion. We expect these debates and votes from 1500 today. The atmosphere here is dominated by Brexit. It’s the conversation on everyone’s lips and the question being asked at every fringe. It’s also a key dividing line in the party, with frontbenchers and shadow cabinet members struggling to agree a party line.
The party has been wracked with infighting since Corbyn won the leadership. Corbyn won the war after the 2017 general election when, despite losing, the party exceeded expectations and ended the governing Conservative party’s majority. Yet the infighting hasn’t really ended – it has just changed.
At the same time the axis of McDonnell, Starmer and Thornberry are pressing the leader hard on adopting a more “remain” stance on the EU. Historically Eurosceptic Corbyn has been reluctant to acquiesce, but he’s finding a party – and his supporters – uniting against him.
The long and short is that Corbyn, facing an election in the coming months, is losing on all fronts within his own party. He vanquished his enemies on the traditional centre and soft left of his party, but now faces threats from within his own factions – with the soft left in alliance with them. A new consensus is emerging and Corbyn is not part of it. As ever, this comes to a head at conference. We’ll have more from the conference hall this week.