What Happens When Labour’s Cult of Personality Ends?

By Ross Singleton

There can be no doubt about the rise in popularity of Labour under Jeremy Corbyn, culminating in the gains made in the recent election. As well as this, you cannot underestimate the attraction of the youth vote to Labour, with 66% of 18-19 year olds, and 62% of 20-24 year olds voting for Labour. There was also a 16% increase in turnout from 18-24 year olds from the 2015 General Election, with many of these voters voting for the first time, for Labour.

The question that must be asked however, is how much of this surge in popularity is because of Corbyn himself, as opposed to the policies of the party? Given Corbyn’s two landslide Labour leadership election wins and the remarkable shift to the left in policy between Ed Miliband and Corbyn, there is an argument for the existence of a cult of personality around Corbyn, propelling himself and the party forward. This leads to the inevitable question, how will Labour fair without Corbyn as their leader?

To examine this question, we must look to the potential successors of Corbyn. The two most senior members of the Shadow Cabinet are John McDonnell and Diane Abbott, and it would be fair to say that they have attracted an extreme amount of controversy and criticism in their political careers. Not to say that Corbyn is universally loved, but I find it hard to see either of these two taking over from Corbyn.

McDonnell has given speeches in front of USSR Flags, hardly becoming of a potential Prime Minister, and Abbott has been quoted on national television stating “On Balance Mao Did More Good Than Harm”, and frequently displays her inability to admit she is wrong, as seen when during a Guardian interview she first got her figures on Labour Council Seat losses wrong, but failed to agree with the interviewer when shown evidence she was incorrect. These incidents paint a picture of two politicians extremely unsuitable to lead not only their party, but the nation. This is a very bleak future for Labour then, if these two are the front runners to replace Corbyn in the future.

However, there is hope for potential labour voters, in the form of two more centre leaning candidates, Dan Jarvis and Chuka Umunna. These two MP’s both display, while perhaps not quite as much as Corbyn, a great deal of charisma and principles. Given the fact that the most recent Labour party manifesto, which was praised by so many, was decided at the Labour party conference and not necessarily only by Corbyn, it would not be unreasonable to hope for yet another left leaning manifesto under a more centrist leader.

What Labour need to be careful of under such a leader, is not to lose the appeal of the growing youth vote and their desire for social mobility, by putting out a lacklustre and centrist manifesto similar to the one produced by Ed Miliband in 2015. This would surely lead to yet another landslide Labour defeat. If Labour can manage this feat, I would argue the party would be in no danger without Jeremy Corbyn. However, if this is not the case, and a more controversial leader is promoted, the future for Labour could be extremely bleak.

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