UK Labour’s members keep unpopular Corbyn as party leader

EDITORIAL

New Zealand’s Labour party will have watched with interest the re-election of Jeremy Corbyn as Britain’s Labour party leader, but it is hard to see what lessons are in it for them.

Corbyn defeated his rival Owen Smith with 68 percent of the vote, a bigger margin than when he was first elected in September 2015.

But despite that clear majority in the party membership vote, he leads a divided party. A total of 172 MPs voted against him in a motion of no confidence, more than three-quarters of his MPs (just 40 voted for him), and the latest campaign has seen vitriolic attacks on social media.

The majority of those are said to have come from the so-called Corbynistas, a phalanx of trade unionists and party members who support Mr Corbyn and accuse the MPs of working to undermine him.

The problem is that many MPs and most commentators believe Corbyn is unelectable because of his strong left-wing views.

In his victory speech Corbyn said it was time for party unity, adding “we have more in common than divides us”. His appeal for unity was tempered, however, by his refusal to rule out the deselection of some sitting MPs.

Here in New Zealand the Labour party is in a very different position. It has largely put behind it the internal friction that hampered it for so long and, despite continued low polling, Andrew Little seems secure in his role as leader.

The party is organised and has some competent MPs focusing on National’s weak points such as housing, inequality and homelessness. For some reason, however, they have been unable to do so, even falling further behind in the latest polls.

It is typical of the angst that faces all parties of the left, which seem to be in decline throughout much of the Western world. In fact the parties on the rise are xenophobic or extremely right-wing ones, which mercifully is not happening to the same extent here — notwithstanding the continued strength of New Zealand First.

So where do two Labour parties, both of which were formed for the same reasons, go from here?

New Zealand’s Labour party will have watched with interest the re-election of Jeremy Corbyn as Britain’s Labour party leader, but it is hard to see what lessons are in it for them.

Corbyn defeated his rival Owen Smith with 68 percent of the vote, a bigger margin than when he was first elected in September 2015.

But despite that clear majority in the party membership vote, he leads a divided party. A total of 172 MPs voted against him in a motion of no confidence, more than three-quarters of his MPs (just 40 voted for him), and the latest campaign has seen vitriolic attacks on social media.

The majority of those are said to have come from the so-called Corbynistas, a phalanx of trade unionists and party members who support Mr Corbyn and accuse the MPs of working to undermine him.

The problem is that many MPs and most commentators believe Corbyn is unelectable because of his strong left-wing views.

In his victory speech Corbyn said it was time for party unity, adding “we have more in common than divides us”. His appeal for unity was tempered, however, by his refusal to rule out the deselection of some sitting MPs.

Here in New Zealand the Labour party is in a very different position. It has largely put behind it the internal friction that hampered it for so long and, despite continued low polling, Andrew Little seems secure in his role as leader.

The party is organised and has some competent MPs focusing on National’s weak points such as housing, inequality and homelessness. For some reason, however, they have been unable to do so, even falling further behind in the latest polls.

It is typical of the angst that faces all parties of the left, which seem to be in decline throughout much of the Western world. In fact the parties on the rise are xenophobic or extremely right-wing ones, which mercifully is not happening to the same extent here — notwithstanding the continued strength of New Zealand First.

So where do two Labour parties, both of which were formed for the same reasons, go from here?

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