Cascade Commentary

What lies ahead for the Labour Party?

December 2019

Jeremy Corbyn’s manifesto on 12th December 2019 led to the worst electoral defeat for the Labour party since 1935. In the aftermath, Labour’s leader announced he would lead the party through a “period of reflection” admitting that he will not lead Labour into a future general election. Many have called for Corbyn to immediately step aside to allow the party to move forward but Corbyn seems intent on ensuring Labour does not move to the right at the time that he does step down. Alastair Campbell called for Labour to “wake up” claiming that the hard left policies promoted by Corbyn are not reflective of how people live their lives today, highlighting that he felt the success of Tony Blair’s leadership was through the adoption of centre-based policies that could attract the masses.

Against this backdrop, many within the Labour party recognise that change needs to come fast and quickly, particularly as Boris Johnson is set to lead the UK out of Europe in 2020. The ruling party must have effective opposition and Labour is failing to deliver that for the country at the moment. David Miliband has been in demand to return to UK politics but this is unlikely to occur and in his absence, Sir Kier Starmer has emerged as favourite.

Sir Kier Starmer as a Barrister brings with him a wealth of experience. He has called for the party not to shift too far right and instead blames the recent loss of voter confidence due to two key issues: i) a lack of substance in the party’s Brexit stance; and ii) a failure to sufficiently deal with rising instances of anti-semitism. Starmer has said that Labour needs to remain true to its values but needs to regain voter trust and he feels the best way to now do so will be once Brexit has been delivered and attentions come back to domestic issues – including the economy, jobs, environment, the NHS and consumers.

Emily Thornberry, Yvette Cooper and Jess Phillips are also considered to be contemplating competing within a future leadership contest. Under party rules, the leadership race will be conducted under a “one member, one vote” system using an alternative vote voting method to calculate the result. Candidates must be elected by members and registered supporters with an equal-weighting to votes cast. To vote, members must have been within the party for a minimum of two weeks ahead of the election. A maximum of 9 candidates will be able to stand with sufficient support garnered to allow each candidate to stand. This process is expected to begin in the new year with Jennie Formby, Labour’s General Secretary, suggesting this will occur from 7th January 2020.

This process needs to occur sooner rather than later, not only for Labour as a party but for the integrity of UK politics which needs to have an effective opposition in place to hold Boris Johnson and the Conservative party to account, particularly given the majority won in the December election. The year ahead will see the UK leave the European Union and we will be watching closely as attention returns to domestic issues and certainty is afforded for the economy.

At the time of writing there are 49 days until the Brexit deadline and confidential documents related to Operation Yellowhammer have been reluctantly released detailing worst-case scenarios of delays at Dover, widespread protests, travel disruption and potential shortages of food, medicines and fuel. Meanwhile Johnson has outlined plans to tackle the Irish backstop by treating Northern Ireland differently to the rest of the UK, something that remains opposed by the DUP.

We will keep you updated on the progress via our website commentary so do take a look when you can. Feel free to give us a call should you wish to discuss this further.

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