Labour membership surge hands Corbyn the advantage

Jeremy Corbyn has called for ‘leadership and clear strategy’ [Image: Dominic Lipinski/PA].

Jeremy Corbyn has called for ‘leadership and clear strategy’ [Image: Dominic Lipinski/PA].

A common criticism of Jeremy Corbyn is that he has turned Labour into a protest movement, rather than a force capable of winning elections. We see Stephen Kinnock knocking out that sad line here.

It isn’t true, of course. Under Corbyn, Labour has increased its majority at four by-elections and increased its share of councillors – against expectations that had been stoked by the media and – let’s face it – MPs like Kinnock.

The party’s membership has expanded hugely – not due to any insurgency by the SWP, as some have claimed. That party’s 2,500 members could have been absorbed into the new intake, which is actually 128,000 members, more than 50 times.

It’s certain that not all of these are supporters of Jeremy Corbyn – organisations known as ‘Saving Labour’ and ‘Labour First’ (an ironic title, considering the neoliberals’ attitude to working people) have also been signing up members to vote against him.

Corbyn’s opponents are never likely to have the numbers in a leadership election.

But you can be sure of this – if they quit the party after a failed attempt to topple Corbyn, you can be sure his critics will say they are supporters abandoning him!

Jeremy Corbyn has hailed a 100,000-strong surge in Labour members since the EU referendum as evidence of a “political sea change” and insisted he is in tune with the new public mood, as he seeks to quash a rebellion by many of the party’s MPs.

As the government prepares to push ahead with a vote on the renewal of the Trident nuclear deterrent on 18 July in a bid to highlight the deep divisions in Labour over defence policy, Corbyn made it clear he would stand firm against his many critics in Westminster.

The prominent backbencher and Labour MP for Aberavon, Stephen Kinnock, said the referendum result meant Labour needed “a persuader, not a protester”, to hold the Conservative government to account, through the tough negotiations with the rest of the EU that will lie ahead.

But in a defiant article for the Guardian, Corbyn said Britain needs “leadership and a clear strategy,” in the wake of the EU referendum result; and sought to claim the findings of the Chilcot report as a victory for his own style of politics.

The jump in Labour members takes the new total 503,143 – the highest number in modern history.

Source: Jeremy Corbyn stands defiant after Labour membership surge | Politics | The Guardian


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10 thoughts on “Labour membership surge hands Corbyn the advantage

  1. Tim

    No seats were gained from other parties were they? All the seats won since Jeremy Corbyn became leader were already Labour seats weren’t they, Mike? Maybe I’m wrong. Has Labour won a seat from the Tories or some other British political party? I’m not sure to be honest.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      No – although you’ll remember the predictions that the Oldham seat would go to UKIP. Instead it returned to Labour with an increased majority.
      We haven’t had by-elections in seats held by other parties yet, unless I’m mistaken.

      1. Tim

        That’s what I thought.

        So it’s more than steady state holds than gains isn’t it?

        I’m really no beginning to get worried. The MPs who withdrew their support from Jeremy Corbyn are never going to fall back in line and allow business to carry on as usual? What happens if the mutineers, as you have named them, decide to form a new party on their own (possibly with what’s left of the Liberal Democrats, who have few MPs but access to substantial funding) and push to stay on as elected MPs for the duration of the parliament as they usually do when crossing the floor of the House to change parties? Wouldn’t the new party have the numbers in the House of Commons to become the official opposition, with both government and opposition having new leaders, neither of which party was elected by voters under those new leaders?

        I’m not sure but feel that there’s nothing in the rules that could prevent such a thing from happening but am sure it would be disastrous for all concerned.

        I feel in my water that something really catastrophic looks bound to eventually happen since everything now seems deadlocked. For Labour’s future this couldn’t be more deathly serious. And yet there seems no way out of this now. Too much bad blood. Too much whipped up animosity.

        This is all going to end very badly I fear.

        Badly for everybody but the Conservative party.

        I wish this terrible fate could gave been avoided.

      2. Mike Sivier Post author

        If the mutineers form a new party on their own, Labour will be better off. With the dead weight gone, the party will be able to make headway with its current policies.
        Any change of party will most likely be accompanied by a by-election, so we’ll probably end up with more Labour MPs who support Mr Corbyn’s policies.
        So no, your projected new party would be unlikely to become the official opposition and you are building castles in the sky.

    2. Roger

      Good point Tim it would interesting to see how well Labour would do in a marginal constituency.

  2. Roger

    I’m not sure what you mean by ‘increased its share of councillors’. I thought that the result left Labour with eleven fewer councillors compared with the previous election.
    I’d also be interested in your view on how Labour is progressing in the country. Half a million members is hugely impressive (and I now count myself among this number) but what evidence can you show that they are persuading people who would not normally vote Labour at a general election.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      I was paraphrasing. What Mr Corbyn actually said was that Labour had beaten the Tories in the local elections. I’m happy to stand corrected on that.

      As for the increased membership persuading people who would not normally vote Labour: While many of the new members were previously among those who wouldn’t have voted for the party, it’s far – far – too early to be suggesting any material change in voting patterns. We’re discussing an increase that has happened in the last week and a half.

      Let’s look at this again after a year with no interference from the right-wingers in the Parliamentary Labour Party.

  3. Roger

    Someone told me at the weekend that Labour had a million members in 1950 but were out of power right up until 1964 (I’ve checked and it’s true). Doesn’t this show that the number of members isn’t that important – it’s the number of people who vote for Labour that matters?

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      You offer only two choices there. Why not more?
      For example, I might argue that what matters is what the members do.

Comments are closed.