10 January 2022

Off you Trot – a new Corbyn Party would be a blessing for Labour

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According to The Daily Telegraph, Jeremy Corbyn and his inner circle are thinking about setting up a new party.

Since stepping down as Labour leader after crashing the party on the electoral rocks, Corbyn has been involved in the most Corbyn-y of ventures, the Peace and Justice Project, through which he and his fan revel in breathy platitudes with none of the messy business of having to get anything done.

The plan, such as it is – and we should always take any story with ‘could’ in the headline with a decent pinch of salt – would be to turn the PJP into an actual political party, presumably with the intention of standing candidates including Corbyn himself.

Of course, Corbyn could make life much easier by simply apologising for his claims that allegations of antisemitism were ‘dramatically overstated for political reasons’, allowing him to resume his position as a Labour MP. But that’s vanishingly unlikely. He’s made a career out of unthinking obstinacy, so why would he change now, a few years into his eighth decade?

Let’s just assume for the sake of argument that this new party is a serious proposition. What would its prospects be?

In Corbyn’s own seat, he’s got a decent chance of winning as an independent, given his name recognition and reputation as a doughty constituency MP. And, frankly, even if Corbyn hadn’t been the local MP since the early 80s, this is the kind of leftwing urban seat he would probably have alighted on.

The more interesting question is whether any Corbynite Labour MPs would defect to the new party? I would be extremely surprised. Without wishing to sound overly cynical, MPs are understandably preoccupied with their own job security. Taking a flyer on a party led by a 72-year-old, even one with JC’s name recognition, does not scream ‘four more years’.

Given that even John McDonnell and Diane Abbott, Corbyn’s oldest comrades on the Labour benches, are apparently not interested, one does wonder whether anyone else would take the plunge on an unknown quantity – especially after seeing what happened to the Independent Group for Changing the UK or whatever it was called.

What about a split on the left damaging Labour’s chances? Well, maybe. There may be a hard core of die-hard supporters who still hang on his every word, and a Corbyn Party might be able to summon the online following and intellectual heft of Aaron Bastani and Rachael Swindon – but tweets alone do not a successful party make.

Keir Starmer, on the other hand, should actively welcome the creation of a redoubt for the fringe elements that did so much to damage Labour from 2015 to 2019. After all, what better sign could there be that Labour has moved on from that era than its figurehead standing under a different banner?

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John Ashmore is Editor of CapX.