Labour are in a mess. What is interesting is that they are in a mess at a time when Mrs May’s government has a slim majority. Slim majorities lead to backbenchers being able to exert greater influence over the government. It seems ironic that David Cameron’s coalition appeared firmer in power, despite having to have policy by consensus between two parties.
But back to Labour. The failure of this party properly to reflect the views of the electorate resulted in two successive election defeats. So the party has apparently voted to reflect the views of the electorate even less.
The consequence of Labour’s shift to the left has been a refusal by the majority of its MPs to serve in Labour’s Shadow Cabinet. But by having this ridiculous ‘broad church’ of diverse opinions, which means that one wing believes in communism while the other supports market economics, this has meant that the party has had willing replacements. However, they are highly inexperienced.
The leader, Jeremy Corbyn, had never spoken at the despatch box before he was elected. This also applied to his Shadow Chancellor, John McDonnell. Such a level of inexperience in high office is unprecedented – and it shows.
The Shadow Foreign Secretary, Emily Thornberry, has served at the despatch box, but demonstrated an inability to function sensibly in high level politics. The Shadow Home Secretary, Andy Burnham, is a man who is religiously loyal to the party. He is the most experienced member of the Shadow Cabinet because this devotion means he is not a part of Labour MPs’ strike against the leader. However, he is planning to quit as an MP quite soon, having been selected as the party’s candidate for the Mayor of Manchester. Burnham knows the game is up and is getting out quick.
The Shadow Defence Secretary, Clive Lewis, is a Corbyn supporter. He was only elected as an MP last year. This is also the case for Richard Burgon, who is now messing up as Shadow Lord Chancellor after failing at shadowing the Treasury. Rebecca Long-Bailey, who shadows the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Angela Rayner at Education, Kate Osamor at International Development and Rachael Maskell shadowing DEFRA have also only been MPs for slightly over a year.
Labour has been without a Shadow Attorney General since late June. Corbyn cannot find anyone to do the job.
Numerous Labour MPs are ‘doubling-up’ on jobs as well. Paul Flynn was elected in 1987. Neil Kinnock had him as a social security spokesman for about a year from 1989 before he quit. He is now working as Shadow Leader of the House, while also shadowing the Welsh portfolio. Dave Anderson, elected in 2006, has to look after both Northern Ireland and Scotland.
Labour’s only Scottish MP, Ian Murray, refuses to work for his own party’s leader.
Grahame Morris also has two jobs, Shadow Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government and Shadow Minister for the Constitutional Convention. Angela Rayner has to shadow Women and Equalities in addition to Education.
Her Majesty’s Government has ninety-three MPs in it, including numerous seasoned veterans of office and opposition.
Her Majesty’s Opposition has only forty-four MPs to oppose them, a shortfall of forty-nine, with many who were not MPs at the beginning of 2015. It is lacking in serious talent as Labour’s most able MPs refuse to serve under Corbyn.
True, Corbyn also has appointed members of the House of Lords as part of his Opposition, but the fact that some of his MPs have to double-up on jobs indicates he cannot make up the shortfall without using an Upper House he wants to abolish. Corbyn appears to have formed his opposition only from those MPs who did not vote against him in the confidence vote, with few exceptions. Some of his team support Owen Smith. He has been unable to exercise any choice based on actual ability. The number of MPs who voted for him, forty, is less than the number he appointed to serve him.
It is indicative of the contempt Corbyn holds for parliamentary democracy that a walkout by the majority of his own MPs is not enough for him to quit. Instead he is stubbornly running an ineffectual skeleton opposition. He maintains that he has a mandate from the membership. But in Parliament and with the wider electorate, that mandate is meaningless. The mandate from his own MPs is that he has to go.
It is undemocratic for Corbyn to still be there running a debased opposition. As I have written before, it is to be hoped that the anti-Corbyn Labour MPs have not wasted the summer. Should they wait for the Conservatives to do a job they should be doing in ousting Corbyn after an increasingly likely landslide victory in 2020, Labour is doomed.