Is Corbyn’s mandate as robust as he thinks it is?

A leadership election may be the only way to break the deadlock, but its outcome is far from clear

Image: John McDonnell

It’s becoming increasingly clear that the only way to break the Labour Party deadlock will be to put the decision to the members in a leadership election.

Corbyn has been hit by nearly 50 resignations in the last two days and today faces a no confidence ballot, in which up to 70 per cent of his colleagues are expected to vote against him.

Cynics would say that Corbyn’s intransigence is simply a ploy to save his own skin, either by forcing the PLP to back down rather than engaging in another bruising and possibly humiliating leadership contest or, if they do insist on triggering an election, by actually humiliating them with another huge victory.

His supporters would argue that the leader has never enjoyed the support of his colleagues, that the PLP no longer effectively represents the will of the party membership and that Corbyn’s concern is actually not for himself, but for the members who deserve to have their views represented.

According to the cynical view, Corbyn is extremely confident that he still has the support of members and will use it to shout down his colleagues.

According to the more idealistic view, Corbyn believes he has the support of members but, even if he doesn’t, is willing to risk his leadership to ensure the decision is democratically made.

As for his colleagues, many report that in recent days the mood of the party has shifted and that ordinary members, as well as cabinet members, have lost confidence in Corbyn because he did not represent their interests and values on the EU.

For months, Europe has been a point of difference between Corbyn and the Corbynistas, who are more enthusiastic about the EU than he is.

Senior members of the Remain campaign suggest that his grudging support for EU membership was primarily driven by a need to align his views with those of his young supporters.

Indeed, a poll of Labour Party members conducted in February showed that 82 per cent of those who voted for Corbyn in the last leadership election also supported remaining in the EU.

Labour’s future now depends on those people. Some of them had probably lost confidence in Corbyn even before the referendum.

For another segment, the shock of Brexit will have drastically shifted their view of Labour politics and of Corbyn.

Both these groups will be ready to flip, provided that a convincing alternative leader is put forward.

And then there is a segment of Labour Party members (many also Momentum members) who cannot be swayed, who will vote for Corbyn in any circumstance.

John McDonnell claims that 10,000 of these people crowded into Parliament Square last night, proving that Corbyn is ‘going nowhere’.

But 10,000 (even if that many actually attended) is a small fraction of Labour’s membership of nearly 400,000.

Last summer Corbyn was given an overwhelming democratic mandate, and perhaps he is right to respect that mandate until it becomes absolutely clear that it no longer exists.

But that day could come sooner than he expects.

Niamh Ní Mhaoileoin is editor of Left Foot Forward.

Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.

22 Responses to “Is Corbyn’s mandate as robust as he thinks it is?”

  1. pete bowler

    10,000 may be small in comparison to 400,000 but it’s 10,000 more than have paraded in support of Benn et al

  2. Sam Saunders

    YouGov were conducting an on-line line survey about the range and nature of support for Corbyn and the alternatives yesterday. Seeing the results would be very interesting.

  3. Bill Redmond

    This is the most sensible comment I’ve yet seen about this situation. I voted for Corbyn, and there is no policy on which I disagree with him. I also think the actual voting patterns of Labour voters in the referendum is largely irrelevant to the question of his leadership. It was obvious to anyone who has campaigned in Labour seats that many of our voters made up their minds some time ago to vote Leave, and we’re not going to be deterred. The reason I now think he should resign is, first, he has no obvious talent for leading the opposition, and insufficient of the electorate see him as a potential prime minister. Second, while it’s possible to see some of the opposition to him as sour grapes and frustrated ambition, the sheer number of MPs who oppose him suggests that the problem goes much deeper than that. These people work with him every day, and if he can’t win their confidence the chances of winning an election, which we must do if we’re to put a brake on the destructive forces at large in this country, are nil.

  4. Paul Surita

    Corbyn won’t be going anywhere as long as he can buy the Union’s block votes with promises like the £137 billion of public money to build Trident submarines with no missiles to go in them.

  5. Rodrigo Correa

    Leadership is about defining reality then unifying. “The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between, the leader is a servant” Jeremet Corbyn has and contine to define Austerity Britain and it’s challenges. Also top economists are agreeing with him. However its the careerist people within Westminster village with over confidence that are sounding him out. Shame on them.

  6. James Kemp

    Simple question to this blog do you really think left? Because i suggest people tart counting the amount of anti-Corbin slanted articles or little digs from most of the commenters that write the main stories i have to ask why!

    Corbin was elected with 96.5% of the vote that’s a mandate the whole secret ballot to protect the MP’s so the electorate cannot punish them is straight out of the right playbook ignore the wishes of the membership as standard. do you the writer think this is correct way of treating the membership? This is just a planned coup that’s month in the making and timed and communicated with the gleeful right wing press do we really need the left press to join in, i see a tiny amount of anti-Corbin support and a mass annoyed to the point of leaving Labour and walking away maybe forever like in my case if Corbin leaves i will tear up my card and don’t come asking for my vote!

  7. Robert Jones

    The obvious answer to your headline question is ‘how robust do you think he thinks his mandate is?’, though granted that’s a question in response to a question. I think he knows – he’s been a polician for 40 odd years – that support can be fickle, and turned off quickly: that would appear to be the calculation of some of those opposing him. However, it’s perfectly clear that, say, Tristram Hunt couldn’t get a fraction of this number of people out on the streets; neither could Hilary, although his dad could have done; nor could anyone else currently uneasily positioning themselves to stab the leader, and then have a stab at succeeding him. The whole problem with this coup is that whatever one might think about Jeremy Corbyn’s abilities as a leader – and I’m not a disciple: I’ve waited in vain for substantial policy initiatives, though I waited just as vainly for Ed Miliband to produce anything but childish sound-bites – the opposition to him has nothing and no one to offer. Chuka Ummuna – for whatever good reasons – withdrew last time; Yvette Cooper – probably the safer choice – failed once and might be unwilling to try again: if she does, she’ll need a far better platform than she offered us before; Dan Jarvis didn’t want to put his name forward – and I don’t really want a leader who has had to be bullied, cajoled, and pleaded into standing; tell me what’s left? John Mann? Stephen Danczuk? What are we going to do, look for a leader from the House of Lords? Invite Ed back? It’s easy to betray a leader you don’t like and never did – surely we all know that his performance in the referendum, in which over 60% of Labour voters chose Remain despite the fact that there’s always been a strong anti-EU strand in the party, isn’t the sole or even main cause of this revolt – it’s something else again to find one in whom the PLP AND the mass of the membership has confidence, and I don’t see a single credible figure standing out from the crowd.

    I object, incidentally, to your phrase about Corbyn “saving his skin”: do you REALLY suppose that any sane person would want to lead the rabble in the House of Commons, or put themselves through this kind of emotional turmoil as they approach their 70th year? I suggest Left Foot Forward, and everyone else in the Labour movement, shows a little bloody gratitude to the man for being prepared to stick his head over the parapet knowing he’d be shot at from day one.

    Even in purely tactical terms, this coup attempt has come too soon and hasn’t been properly planned – the conspirators and those who have simply become frustrated with Corbyn and depressed beyond all reason by the Exit vote have stumbled into a fight that actually no one can now win. What did they think would happen? I knew he wouldn’t resign: I’ve never met the man, still less worked with him – so why didn’t they know? They hope to keep his name off the ballot paper in a leadership election – do they really think the membership in the country would be prepared to tolerate that?

    These people couldn’t run a bath, and have the gall to question Corbyn’s leadership? Motes and beams, ladies and gentlemen – motes and bloody beams…


    A lot will depend upon who runs against him . To be fair to him his was easily the best campaign last year , the others really didn’t cover themselves in glory .


    A lot will depend upon who runs against him . To be fair to him his was easily the best campaign last year , the others really didn’t cover themselves in glory . If a strong unifying progressive candidate free from all Blairite influences emerges that unions approve of then Corbyn may be in trouble but he may also feel his work is done if it’s a good leader you never know , however given the strategic timing of.the coup it could be that talent is thin on the ground

  10. John Davies

    The ‘coup’ has been in the planning process well before the Referendum, so what does that say! The PLP has for too long been controlled by the right and its Blair acolytes. It worries me that I cannot find unbiased reporting in the media including the BBC and Guardian. We need, must have change, a “system of alliances” with the entire left, be it Green, Scottish, Welsh et al. This democracy of our isn’t. The constituents, us, are ignored, patronised as stupid. This change can only come through unity of purpose and Corybn is the man of the moment. Through him we an build a true consensus and a system that in inclusive.

  11. Martyn Wood-Bevan

    Just taking a break from reading endless posts about new members joining Labour precisely to increase Jeremy’s Support. The Media, including yourselves risk being way out of touch. Jeremy was the BEST Remain performer in the whole debate and I watched several of his speeches and talks. Compared to the great Media debates which were just Rubbish. Many party members and others are absolutely furious at this attempted coup and will fight it vigorously. Glad we now have a decent shadow cabinet!

  12. Nick

    Jeremy is still the best leader by far and would win again the leadership contest if one was called

    however to win a general election where you need to convert conservative voters over to labour then no he couldn’t do that but neither could anyone else at this time

    we have to face facts this is not Einstein stuff ‘Jeremy is labour the rest of the labour mp’s bar a few are liberal at best and conservative at worse and that’s the bottom line

    we have just seen how the country is by voting to leave the EU on the race card and had that not been part of the EU debate the remain camp would have won hands down

    To try to run a country like it should be run in a fair and honest manner for all will never be possible as the country and a large chunk of it’s people wont to keep going over the old ground of immigration and all that could ever achieve is not only uk instability but world instability as it panders to those on the selfish right wing of society who only ever care about themselves

    you only have to look at the right wing faces of the EU out campaign from across Europe and Donald trump to see there is no way Jeremy could ever become the prime minister as a decent human being

    those days are over and there is no way on earth there coming back. the future of the uk and Europe will be a downward spiral of chaos led by the likes of Boris Johnson etc

  13. Nick

    Had the EU been equal throughout with all of it’s laws and policy’s and acted like one country like the USA then things would have been very different from the off ‘ yes that could have worked and like the usa it does work

    but to have a mish mash of rules and regulations with a different set of criterias of tax /benefits /housing /wages / health etc for each of the EU countries that was never ever viable in the first place as all that would do would be to have hot spots throughout Europe of people in where there was work

    at the end of the day common sense is the key like i’ts always been

  14. David Butler

    Am not convinced your correspondent isn’t seeking to generate equivocation among Momentum ranks rather than reflect emergence of it: ‘many report that in recent days’ … ‘the shock of Brexit will have drastically shifted their view of Labour politics and of Corbyn’. These comments are speculative at best. More cynically, one sniffs on the air the distinct scent of BBC political correspondent citizen K’s insidious, unsourced and/or mendacious anti-corbyn campaign.

  15. Eric

    This is a horrible situation for Britain to find itself in.

    Jeremy has lost the support of the vast number of those who work most closely with him. Yes, some have always opposed him on ideological grounds but many, I believe have simply lost faith in his ability to lead an effective opposition and win the next general election.

    Jeremy needs to go of his own accord. Let those who voted for him find another candidate that will unite the party and not divide it. At the moment we are staring at the Labour party splitting and if it does the tories will be in power for another decade and more likely than not Scotland will hold another referendum and leave the UK. Both will be a tragedy, an avoidable tragedy, for those who the Labour movement seek to represent and protect.

  16. Martin Read

    Personally, I have been impressed by Corbyn’s consistency and determination not to be dragged down into the pit of despair and empty posturing of other MPs. Surely it was his ability to cut through all of this that re-engaged so many disenfranchised voters. The Remain Campaign may well have offered by far the best option, but many of its advocates were also far from honourable. Corbyn’s role and his media persona seldom one and the same.

    Those I know who were passionately ‘Remain’ said that they could feel the argument being lost when the vacuity of the Leavers argument was purposefully reduced to a couple of empty slogans. ‘Take back control,’ will surely come back to haunt many of those who voted to ‘leave.’ The ‘Remain’ camp, by contrast, appeared forever torn between deciding to fling back ecrement or else countering with the more well-considered and lengthy rebuttals. Tabloid mentality wins again, except of course we all lost.

    But, aside from all the despair and dread, there has been something else that that has come to light. And this is the painful undermining of all that Corbyn has sought to achieve, by the likes of ‘Left Foot Forward.’ The tabloids were true to form from the get-go, the BBC appeared alarmingly partisan, as did the no-longer-so-Liberal Grauniad, and ‘Left Foot Forward’ has shown itself to be just as undeserving of its self-proclaimed political allegiances.

    We can pretend that this is about a vote of no confidence, but really it is nothing short of a long and drawn out establishment coup.

  17. Sucheta

    I suggest you read this blog to get an idea of the forked tongue of Left Foot Forward.

  18. Martin Read

    Thank you, Sucheta. We knew that this was happening, but this article names names and fleshes out our suspicions to the full. All the more reason to rally behind Corbyn.

  19. Lesley

    I agree with Martin Read. At last we have someone in Jeremy who is worth voting for. Under him, the membership has grown as people saw the quiet dignity of the man and his thoughtful political style, and someone who stands by his principles rather than spouting rhetoric and vague promises. He asked the ordinary members for their opinions and questions for PMQ. This has never happened before.
    I cannot believe the arrogance of these dissenters who have failed to support Jeremy from the start, ignoring the wishes of the majority of Party members. It is this attitude which has disillusioned the electorate and turned people off politics in general. At last there is an alternative to “all parties are the same”. I am furious with these MPs who have total disregard and contempt for the Labour Party members and their opinions! They alone have set the Party back years, just when it was starting to recover from the Blair years and Miliband who lost the whole of the Scottish vote. I have started sending emails of protest to all these “blue-Labour” MPs. I would leave the Party today, but it would not help Jeremy at a leadership challenge. They should all be uniting behind him to get involved with the REAL threat of EU exit – not divide the party with animosity. It has made us a laughing stock.

  20. Carey

    Thank you Sucheta, Now it all falls in to place re Left Foot Forward. I had no idea how tightly formulated it all was. It also seems that my comment to this discussion sent yesterday, has not been included. I basically said that I was sick of their attacks on Jeremy Corbyn and same in rest of “liberal left” media.. Left Foot Forward are you censoring comment?

  21. Carey

    I could not bare to listen to or read media coverage of the EU referendum debate, but I did find Prof Michael Dougan’s presentation v useful and I post here for anyone that has not seen it, and would like to. He has been subject to abuse for his outspokenness and his views, Personally if the who debate had been covered to this level, I feel we would as a country made a different decision

  22. Robert

    Pretty much the only honest principled politician around, there was Corbyn bashing by the media before the referendum and worse after. I can see why the bourgeoise Blarite politburo would like to get rid of him, apparently integrity isn’t a virtue the ‘Labour party’ want.

    Might see the resurrection of the Libdems due to this.

Leave a Reply