As Westminster deals with the fallout of the Corbyn landslide, four thoughts for the week ahead:
This is the big one. With the number of Shadow Cabinet resignations - along with other MPs refusing to serve - in double figures already, the makeup of Corbyn’s first opposition front bench will be a true litmus test of how willing he is to involve more moderate Labour MPs in the decision making process. Having already committed to a 50/50 split between men and women, the likes of Angela Eagle, Debbie Abrahams, and (as most Tories pray for nightly) Diane Abbott are likely to receive prominent roles. It would be no surprise to see Cat Smith given a position too, despite only taking her seat this year - a former Corbyn employee, she can expect to be rewarded for her unwavering support this summer. It all hinges on the Shadow Chancellor, though - if it goes to Corbyn’s BPFF (Best Parliamentary Friend Forever) John McDonnell, then any hope of a compromise with the more Centrist wing of the Party can be swiftly cast aside.
All Eyes On PMQs
For obvious reasons. When Corbyn takes to the despatch box on Wednesday (unless he delegates it to deputy Tom Watson, as rumoured) it will mark his first appearance in his three decades in Parliament. David Cameron is surely licking his lips at the prospect. Having near mastered the art of the wry put-down, the Prime Minister will have enough ammunition against his new opposite number to arm a small nation. You can look forward to a litany of references to extremist ‘friends,’ wacky economic policies, and a desire to leave the nation unprotected. All of a sudden PMQs has become compulsory viewing for more than just the political anoraks.
Corbyn: The Silent Leader
Staying on the subject of PMQs, there’s already controversy afoot as Corbyn insists that he will only lead the questions on one out of every five weeks, allowing fellow Labour MPs to have a go at it. This is student politics personified, and, along with his clear disinterest in talking to the press and ‘radical’ plan to crowdsource questions to ask the Prime Minister, speaks to a worrying trend. Corbyn has a responsibility to those who elected him: to lead the opposition and to head the effort to take the Government to task. His unwillingness to truly ‘be the man’ is an abdication of that responsibility. It seems that he has no interest in accountability - he clearly doesn't wish to put his own head above the political parapet, and instead is apparently planning on some sort of leadership jobshare. Are we finally seeing that - besides the typical socialist soundbites - he hasn't really got much to say that’s relevant or credible? Or is it just a tacit acknowledgement that the Conservatives can tear him to shreds? Time will tell.
War of words
For a supposed new dawn for Labour politics, Saturday’s speeches certainly sounded remarkably similar to the same old tripe that we have been subjected to over the last five years. Sadiq Khan took all of 10 seconds to launch into some classic Labour identity politics - his Dad was a bus driver and he grew up in a council flat, in case you’ve been living under a rock. But that was just the amuse bouche to the main course of Corbyn soundbite pie. Quick to slam the media for the nastiness in politics, the Left Wing Messiah couldn't stop himself from falling back to the tired Labour classic: damn those nasty Tories. Referencing an apparent ‘social cleansing’ that the Conservatives are hellbent on (no, me neither), Corbyn went one further, describing May’s General Election as a ‘tragedy.’ That’s one condescending way to insult the electorate - I’m sure there will be more to come. More interesting, however, has been the Tory response to Corbyn’s victory. The clear party line is to paint the hirsute Leader of the Opposition as a threat, not a joke. An immediate email blast from CCHQ made this all the more apparent, with a list of damning quotes from the man himself (immediately denounced as ‘wicked Tory smears’ by his cult-like following). This tactic has two benefits: it removes any sympathy Corbyn would receive if he was the butt of numerous jokes, and puts even more pressure on him to clarify his position on Hamas, the IRA, and other extremist ‘friends.’