Stormy Water Ahead for the Labour Party?

By Saturday afternoon the waiting will be over and we will know who is the new Leader and the new Deputy Leader of the Labour Party.

The announcement will be made at a Special Conference being held in London that morning and the Deputy Leader result will be announced before that of Leader.

Whilst the majority of debate and coverage has focused on the leadership candidates, the role of Deputy Leader is crucial in that it provides access to a range of levers to influence the Party machinery as well as a rallying point for a rival camp to that of the Leader.

Whilst, the smart money is currently on Tom Watson (a consummate political operator and deal maker, who was a key member of the ‘Curry House Putsch’ which plotted the removal of Tony Blair in favour of Gordon Brown) the voting system means the possibility remains of Stella Creasy securing enough second preferences to win. Whoever wins will be a key figure in the battle for the future of the Labour Party as a potential Party of Government.

Corbyn remains the favourite to win the Leadership contest, but the reality is, even at this late stage there are a significant number of votes still to be cast and some people reportedly had still not received their ballots. The electorate in this contest have been impossible to canvass accurately – even by the candidates’ campaigns – since the final result is achieved by single transferable vote and second preferences will therefore be all important if Corbyn does not secure very close to the 50 per cent mark. This means the possibility of one of the other candidates just pulling ahead – many commentators believe Yvette Cooper could be in this position – cannot be entirely ruled out.

A clear win for Corbyn will make it harder – but not impossible – for more centrist MPs to move against him at an early stage. A close result will give them more space to mount an offensive – particularly if the Party plunges in the polls. The next set of local elections will also focus Labour MPs minds on the response of the electorate to the new leadership of the party. . Even if Yvette Cooper or Andy Burnham manage to pip Corbyn to the prize many believe the Labour Party has been so damaged by the spectacle of the Leadership election that the next general election has already been lost.

The London Mayoral contest which is looming next year will be closely fought and Labour’s candidate will be announced on Friday ahead of the Leadership election. Whoever Labour’s candidate is will have a key platform from which to influence the debate around the future of the Party.

The Conservatives could be forgiven for looking forward to celebrating the demise of the Labour Party, however it also poses a number of worrying scenarios for them. The stance of the Official Opposition on a range of issues related to the economy and foreign policy will be watched closely by inward investors, the markets and other governments. The Conservative Government’s slim majority means it takes a small number of rebels to cause them to lose key votes. We could be in for a return to knife edge, late night votes of the kind not seen since the 1970s. Conversely, some Labour MPs have already signaled they could rebel against a Corbyn-ite stance on votes on issues such a Syria, and vote with the Conservatives.

Amidst all this uncertainty, what is clear is that anyone with an interest in navigating this uncharted political landscape will need to keep their wits about them.

Michelle DiLeo, Head of Public Affairs