The return of the opposition party

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Yesterday’s Labour leadership result could not have been more conclusive.

Jeremy Corbyn, a little-known backbencher who started his campaign for leader at 200 to 1, seized 59.5% of the Labour Party vote in the first round. His closest rival, Andy Burnham, came in with an admirable 19%.

Describing himself to be a “bit surprised”, Corbyn has set about announcing his front bench team, which will include Burnham as Shadow Home Secretary; alongside him, John McDonnell will become Shadow Chancellor, Hilary Benn will remain Shadow Foreign Secretary, and Angela Eagle is announced as Shadow Business Secretary.

The former Shadow Business Secretary, Chuka Umunna, stood down after Corbyn’s victory, citing a “mutual agreement.”

Corbyn’s victory says something important about the Labour Party’s vision going forward: previously the talk has been very much focused on winning the electorate back for the next election in 2020; what this result shows is Labour will now be a strong opposition going forward.

Where would the sense be in electing a leader who was simply a watered-down version of the majority government? Surely, to create a strong opposition, a party requires stark differences with that government. Naturally, the intention is to win in 2020, but for the time being, the electorate knows that – in a democratic society – there will be a strong opposition to keep tabs on the Government.

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Furthermore, the Labour Party has for too long been weighed-down by the friends of Brown and Blair. For a party based on working people, the cronyism developed within Labour since 1997 has made it resemble the Tory party it is supposed to oppose.

Now, however, with the exit of a number of Labour’s old-hands, Blairites and Brownites, the party can start afresh; shake off the cobwebs and move forward as a party which is centred around some of Labour’s key values.

Whether I believe in Labour’s key values is not important, but to have a party that knows where it stands on the political landscape is fundamentally democratic for its members, and for the electorate as a whole.

Corbyn’s victory is a good step for Labour’s future; whether it will translate into election victories remain to be seen. Although, my expectation is that it may well be a solid start.

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