Today, the fate of the Parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) was sealed. Supporters of Jeremy Corbyn, the party’s embattled incumbent, successfully fought a campaign in the High Court to win the right to vote in the upcoming leadership election. This all came about when the party’s National Executive Committee ruled that members who had joined Labour after January 12th would be ineligible to vote, unless they paid an extra £25.
This is a key victory for Corbyn and his supporters. He has been able to rally “grassroots” supporters, and generally these newer members are far more likely to support Corbyn than they are to support the welsh challenger, Owen Smith.
An appeal has been launched against the High Court’s decision, so this situation is subject to change. But it’s clear that the problems the PLP is facing are coming to a head.
If this ruling by the High Court is upheld, then Corbyn will undoubtedly win the leadership election. This then creates a very interesting situation – a party leader will be elected with no support from his parliamentary party. There is no doubt in my mind that the PLP will then split irreversibly, with Corbyn’s small band of MPs rallying around whilst the remainder will try and form a new centre-left initiative to face the Tories.
Three groups stand to benefit from this (and neither are Labour); Firstly, the Conservative party will be overjoyed at this news, as unchallenged Tory rule is pretty much guaranteed for at least the 2020 General Election. Second, UKIP will be licking their lips at the thought of snatching up ‘classic Labour supporters’ – the working class Brexiteers who have felt increasingly alienated by the Labour party. Finally, the Liberal Democrats (remember them?) will see this as a chance to snatch the centre-left ground and establish themselves as a serious political party. I for one know many, many Labour supporters who are considering turning to the Lib Dems, should Corbyn win his election.
So Tories in power, UKIP surging in popularity, the Lib Dems resurgent – could the political landscape change so drastically again?
The leadership election is a month and a half away, so I would like to add a pinch of salt with my predictions; these days we should know better than trying to predict political decision making!