Jeremy Corbyn is re-elected as leader of the Corbyn Party. A nation rejoices….

Proving that he is the least conventional of politicians, Jeremy Corbyn defied convention by winning an election that, according to polls and pundits alike, he was predicted to win. Sixty-two percent of the voting membership of the Corbyn Party assented to the proposition that Jeremy Corbyn should stay at its leader – a slight uptick on the proportion that put him there in the first place. This, of course, was presented as a great triumph or, as Mr Corbyn himself chose to call it “a new mandate”. Nevertheless, for the second year running the question remained as to why around four in ten of the members of the Jeremy Corbyn fan club don’t want him to be their leader. Mr Corbyn’s failure to return North Korean levels of democratic support can presumably be put down to his legendary scatter-brainedness. Though often likened to Stalin, the Labour leader would make a very bad totalitarian dictator indeed. At the execution of his political enemies, he would be the one who forgot to turn up with any bullets. He would be all Pol and no Pot.

No sooner had Mr Corbyn’s victory over Owen Smith been announced than it was heralded by Owen Jones as the launch-pad for “an inspiring, coherent, credible vision”. Luckily these political Owens travel around is easily-labelled packages – the one a Labour MP destined for a return to the obscurity of the backbenches, the other an idealistic Guardian columnist who looks rather younger than Aled Jones did when he first sang Walking in the Air. Perhaps they should team up and make television programmes together. Even if the subject matter were confined exclusively to what Owen J calls Labour’s “mutual mistrust and looming internecine warfare”, they would never want for material.

Quite how Labour is to make the passage from looming internecine warfare to an inspiring, coherent and credible vision is, it might be objected, the missing link in young J’s eulogy to his hero’s victory. This, however, is the sort of detail that Team Corbyn has showed itself so adept at mastering during the first uncontroversial year of his leadership. The Messiah himself made a promising start. “We shall wipe the slate clean”, he promised. In a backroom somewhere, a whole team of Corbynistas were busy, not only wiping slates clean, but sharpening them up ready to be thrown through the constituency office windows of MPs who are opposed to the great Pol.

These MPs flocking back to Mr Corbyn’s side to admire his new mandate were conspicuous by their absence. Owen S was obliged by convention to stand on the stage next to the man who had just trounced him when the result was declared, looking united; when the television cameras cut to Tom Watson, however, the Party’s turbulent deputy leader, he looked about as happy as someone would realising he had forgotten to give S the knife. There is little love lost between Mr Corbyn and his deputy, with the former regarding the latter as disloyal, discourteous and wrong. These, as it happens, were exactly the words used to describe Mr Watson by Tony Blair’s Downing Street 10 years ago after he had tried to engineer the then Prime Minister’s overthrow. A fierce dislike and embedded mistrust of Tom Watson is the most promising basis for a concordat between Corbynites and Blairites that the Labour Party is ever likely to discover.

Somehow from this unyielding material, the Labour leader will be obliged to create yet another shadow cabinet. Mr Corbyn forms shadow cabinets roughly as often as the rest of us brush our teeth, though he has been known to be several days in the doing of it, which is longer than even the most assiduous dentist recommends. An intense argument is raging within Labour – one of several thousand such – about whether members of the shadow cabinet should be elected and, if so, by whom. Demonstrating that they have a low regard for their notional leader’s perspicacity and intellect, the MPs have suggested that the electing should be done by them, trusting that the great Pol might not notice the flaw in this stratagem from his perspective. Mr Corbyn meanwhile clings to the democratic ideals of his predecessor – this is about all of Ed Miliband’s legacy that he does cling to – believing that the tiresome and impractical business of electing a shadow cabinet should remain done away with altogether. Either that or the loyal members of the Corbyn fan club should do it. According to John McDonnell, a rare example of the fan club who is also an MP, there will be a million such by this time next year. Labour is Europe’s largest political party chirrups Owen J in his Guardian panegyric. As if Europe didn’t have enough problems.

There is talk that the party will organise an “away day” where they will chew over such issues as electing the shadow cabinet, policy, direction and the vexed issue of whether they should stop sending internet abuse to each other. (On this last issue, a compromise position has emerged, whereby death threats can only be sent on Snapchat so that they vanish after 10 seconds.) Presumably Europe’s largest political party will require a fairly large venue. The moderates have suggested the Birmingham NEC, the Corbynistas Venezuela. Size of venue is not ostensibly a problem for Labour’s would-be allies on the “progressive centre-left”, the dear old Liberal Democrats whose party conference preceded Labour’s in dear old progressive Brighton. Political journalists flocked to the south coast in almost double figures, hunting out telephone boxes in the search for jokes about the number of the party’s MPs.

Conference delegates meanwhile arrived in Brighton to the shocking news that almost half the public, according to an opinion poll, dislike the Party’s leader Tim Farron. The shock in Brighton was of rather a different kind to the shock beyond it: within Lib Dem circles simply no one could believe that it is possible to dislike Tim Farron. Outside it is impossible to believe that you can find an opinion poll survey of enough people who have heard of him. Still the Lib Dems like to live in a little world of their own:  a world in which Vince Cable is always right, Paddy Ashdown is modest and self-effacing, Charlie Kennedy never touched a drop in his life and, of course, the Liberal Democrats remain in permanent, benevolent and enlightened control. Such a world is the one inhabited by the grassroots speaker in the Party’s debate on Britain’s future relationship with the EU who declared that she could not understand the result of the referendum on the grounds that she never met anyone who voted to leave. If only the rest of us could organise it never to meet a smug, deluded and – to use Nick Clegg’s characterisation of his own party – herbivorous, Liberal Democrat, the world would be a much happier place.

 

 

 

 

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