Jeremy Corbyn’s resounding victory in the Labour Party leadership contest demonstrates a clear split between the parliamentary party and the membership. Corbyn won 62 per cent of the party vote to achieve re-election, but the process that brought about the challenge had seen a remarkable 172 of Labour’s 230 MPs back a motion of no confidence in their leader.
With a further leadership challenge looking unlikely, Labour has to move on under Corbyn, which will not be easy in parliament where so many of his MPs were against him.
It was inevitable Corbyn would call for unity yesterday, and leading figures in the party echoed that appeal. Despite their differences, both sides in this struggle know further warfare could result in a split which would be catastrophic for the Labour movement.
But to achieve unity, Corbyn will have to compromise. The bare statistics behind his victory are convincing, but so too are opinion polls which show the UK will reject him.
The sort of power Corbyn now commands is effectively meaningless. Only by forming a government can there be any fulfilment of strategy. And unless Corbyn and his backers address the deficit between party and public support, their aims will get no closer to becoming reality than an election flyer.
It is clear Corbyn has to make concessions on shadow cabinet selection. Reinstating elections, which would bring back onside several of his critics, carries the prospect of weakening his power base, but that is a concession the leader will have to live with. He knows the power he commands is a skewed representation of the support he enjoys, and replacing appointments with elections will make his job harder but would deliver a fairer reflection of reality. And unless he is prepared to make concessions, his call for unity is no more than a demand for silence.
The electorate has seen nothing in this episode to make Labour a more attractive proposition for government. If Corbyn treats his new mandate as an endorsement, the only winner will be the Conservative Party.