Belfast Telegraph

Citizen Corbyn must compromise to remain at the helm

By Liam Clarke

The conference season continues tomorrow with Labour. It is the first outing for King Jeremy with the party faithful since his landslide victory and subsequent first-count coronation.

Yet, if you think he will lead Labour into the next election in 2020, you will get even money from Paddy Power.

Bookies can be wrong, just like pollsters, but they do represent people putting their money where their mouths are, and the jury is out on Mr Corbyn.

All the signs are that he has a massive hill to climb to win over his party's MPs.

He will have to dump several pet policies which weren't in the Labour manifesto.

Scrapping Trident, Britain's nuclear deterrent, is one which he will almost certainly have to lose. Not standing in Northern Ireland may be another.

At this point I'll declare an interest. My wife Kathryn is on the Labour executive here and is at the conference. She backed Andy Burnham for leader. Remember Adam Boulton, the former Sky political editor, was married to not one, but two Labour activists. Not at the same time, of course.

Reports of discussions within the shadow Cabinet have been amusing. One minister reportedly told another to "f*** off" after being asked to give "Jeremy" a chance. Mr Corbyn has to win over the support of those who didn't vote for him, not just his inner circle, if he is to lead the party.

It's not impossible. His policy on slowly renationalising the railways has attracted many. His people's quantitative easing proposal to issue Government bonds to pay for housing and other investment projects attracted derision, but is also gaining some support.

Paul Marshall, one of Britain's wealthiest hedge fund managers, welcomed the proposal in the Financial Times.

He argued that bankers, asset managers and hedge funds, like his own $22bn fund Marshall Wace, have all benefited from quantitative easing, while property owners "have made out like bandits".

He insisted that "in fact, anyone with assets has grown much richer" and saw a case for "alternative versions of QE that do not so directly benefit bankers and the rich".

Mr Corbyn has raised debate. He may even get some of his policies enacted if he is careful and wins over his MPs. That may demand greater political skills than he possesses.

Mr Corbyn would have to change his image - his dress sense is more of an old-style Liberal Democrat look - and drop some of his associates to win over one ex-MP.

Kim Howell, a former minister who stepped aside in 2010, said that if he were still in Parliament he would be "bitterly opposed to the current leadership of the Labour Party".

"I'd be saying things that I believe about the need to win political power," he added, "and a bunch of old Trotskyites are not going win political power."

Many current MPs say the same. Mr Corbyn cannot do much about it for now - he did not have enough supporters to make up a credible shadow Cabinet, so he has to seek accommodation.

The alternative, which some of the old Trotskyites may favour, is to crush dissent and have critics deselected in favour of themselves. That could backfire badly and make the party unelectable.

There is a big difference in gaining support from your mates and beating the Tories in a general election.

Northern Ireland may be one of the areas on which he gives ground. There will be an early review of Labour's policy of not standing here, and the idea of a joint region is now being supported by Irish Labour, which will be at the conference.

It will be interesting to see who turns up at the Northern Ireland Labour reception on Tuesday and what is said.

Belfast Telegraph


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