May 7th 2015- Labour faced the worst electoral result since 1987 and membership of the Labour Party was around 180,000. However, since the election of Jeremy Corbyn, as of today the Labour movement is 515,000 strong (and growing).
In Swanley and the rest of Sevenoaks, membership has also greatly increased and mainly as a result of Jeremy Corbyn (70 new members in one week!). The Labour Party in our local community has not only been strengthened but has become far more prominent in positively affecting people’s lives. We only have to observe the petition that was sent out to ‘Save OUR Rec’ which garnered over a thousand signatures and directly affected the local council’s decision making. Corbyn’s calling for a new kind of politics has been powerful in enfranchising and engaging many of those in local communities who felt they couldn’t trust Labour. The synergy Jeremy has with the membership and many local CLPs is palpable. It would seem the Labour grass roots is genuinely experiencing a renaissance.
In all by-elections which Labour have won, the vote share has increased (in some cases tripling). Labour has won all major mayoral elections (London, Bristol etc.) and 66% of all Labour voters voted to remain in the EU, compared to just 15% of all Conservative Party members despite the influence of the Government. It’s only been 10 months since 251,417 Labour party members put their faith in Jeremy Corbyn to lead our party.
Despite the aforementioned gains, Corbyn faces a pending leadership challenge from Angela Eagle and potentially Owen Smith. It is true Jeremy Corbyn’s opposition has been far from the grass roots renaissance. In Parliament, Corbyn is often dominated at PMQs and his new less confrontational style of PMQs has been far from successful. David Cameron had the weakest post war majority in history and yet still was not held to account on many issues (Panama leaks, statutory instruments, investigatory powers bill). Nevertheless, there have been some notable victories- tax credits George Osborne’s two-day budget and Hillsborough. However, for a Government with a majority of just 16 MPs and weak public support it is arguable they should have had no victories. Labours inefficiency and failure to convey to the public a different policy agenda is a serious issue.
To assess Jeremy’s leadership, we must ask these questions, is this Jeremy Corbyn’s fault? Are the divisions that belie the PLP a direct result of Corbyn? Is the character and nature of Corbyn not suited to leadership? Will a change in leadership benefit the party? I won’t answer these questions as I wish not to influence your view of Corbyn or the Labour Leadership. Instead, I will depart with one message, whosoever the leader of our party is, Labour has deep divisions and issues that will not be resolved anytime soon.
Swanley & District Labour Party Youth Officer