by GK Strategy 14th September, 2015
3 min read

A Changing Opposition

Jeremy Corbyn has become the leader of the Labour party with 59.5% of the vote, annihilating his competition with a winning formula of personal authenticity and classic left-wing policies. The leadership election result has shown not only a transformation in the voting behaviour of full Labour party members, but also that the Labour party itself is transforming.

Corbyn, whose key policies include cuts to austerity measures, the renationalisation of the railways and the creation of a National Education service, attracted the support of 88,499 registered supporters who paid £3 to vote in the election. Whilst the Labour party were hoping that registered supporters would be a way of inducing different types of Labour supporters to participate in the party leadership elections, an overwhelming majority of the 105,000 registered supporters voted for Corbyn, whose campaign made a far greater impact than those of the other three candidates. A clear socialist approach was favoured above the rather soggy centre-left alternatives on offer.

Perhaps a greater surprise is that Corbyn won 121,751 of the total 245,520 votes cast by full Labour members, demonstrating a stark change in the voting behaviour of full Labour party members since the 2010 leadership election, where the majority of members voted for Blairite David Miliband. There has also been a surge of 15,500 people joining the party in the 24 hours after Corbyn’s victory.  The party has seen this before, with membership rising (and later decreasing) in 2010 when Ed Miliband became leader, however, it will be interesting to see if the momentum built by Corbyn’s campaign will be enough to hold onto new voters, and even gain further support before the next general election.

Another striking feature of this leadership election is the changing (and diminishing) relationship between Trade Unions and the Labour party. Out of 148,192 ballot papers issued to party supporters registered by their union, only 71, 546 ballot papers were returned. This is the first time that the number of union members voting has been lower than full party members, and will have long-term consequences for the future funding of the Labour party. This will almost certainly be used to strengthen the government’s arguments today in the Commons as the trade union bill is discussed, with the government desiring the end to the link between Labour funding and the unions.

Corbyn and his shadow cabinet now face the difficult challenge of uniting the Labour party. Since the results were announced there have been several resignations from senior Labour MPs in quick succession, and although there is hope that Corbyn’s “broad” cabinet can overcome differences on policy across the board, there have been some questionable choices made. In particular, Corbyn’s choice of John McDonnell as his shadow chancellor has raised the hackles of many MPs. The lack of women appointed to the more senior cabinet positions is also a great source of contention and disappointment for many Labour MPs and supporters.

As Corbyn seeks to move the party towards a more distinctly left-wing position, there may be opportunities for the involvement of external organisations and businesses to help shape new policy development. It will also be important to watch closely how the government – and its wily arch-strategist, George Osborne – responds to an opposition moving off the centre ground. GK Strategy provides services to assist in identifying and developing these opportunities. If you would like to know more, please feel free to contact us.

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