Is Labor really a workers' party?

Politics & Communication

If Jeremy Corbyn remains at the head of the party, there will be no Labor government until the end of his life - with these haunting words, Neil Kinnock warned his party friends on Monday against the re-election of Corbyn. Kinnock is not just anyone. The words of the long-time chairman and EU commissioner continue to carry weight in the Labor Party. But it can be doubted that his advice could seriously jeopardize the re-election of Corbyn.

While backbenchers from all factions are traditionally responsible for the summer theater, this time it was mainly representatives of the Labor Party who dominated the headlines with their dispute over direction and leadership. The starting point was the dismissal of the popular MP Hillary Benn from the shadow cabinet. The foreign policy spokesman had dared to publicly denounce Corbyn's moderate commitment against Brexit and also questioned the leadership of the party chairman. As a result, more than half of the shadow cabinet resigned. It took Corbyn several weeks to find willing faction members to accept one of the otherwise coveted offices.

Without support from the group

At this time, the lower house group increased the pressure: In a vote of no confidence, 80 percent of the Labor MPs spoke out against the polls unpopular old left Corbyn. But he was unimpressed. He entrenched himself with his few loyal followers in the parliamentary group in the Wagenburg and in turn brought his "momentum" movement into position - a grassroots movement that brought the Labor Party a six-figure increase in membership and made him chairman with an overwhelming majority last year rinsed. Threats made the rounds to depose uncomfortable MPs in the line-up for the next general election at the nomination events.

But that's not all: Legal disputes ensued as to whether Corbyn was allowed to be on the ballot paper without a sufficient number of supporters from the parliamentary group. Result: He may. It also had to be clarified in court whether around 130,000 new members are entitled to vote in the election of the party chairman. The administrative court said yes, the appeal court finally said no.

Establishment versus Corbyn

Prominent Labor politicians, all of whom campaigned against Corbyn, added fuel to the fire. The list of warners ranges from the last party chairman Ed Miliband to the newly elected London Mayor Sadiq Kahn, the Labor politician with the most important mandate in the country. From the perspective of the Momentum members, this gave the impression that it was a battle between the head of a conservative party elite and the heart, the left party base.

In this heated atmosphere it was almost a minor matter who actually competes against Corbyn. After some hesitation, MPs Angela Eagle and Owen Smith threw their hats into the ring. But after just a week, Eagle, who belongs to the moderately conservative wing of the Labor Party, withdrew her candidacy in favor of Smith. He is much further to the left and is considered a compromise candidate between the wings.

In the very intensive two-month internal party election campaign, however, the programmatic discussions were not in the foreground. Rather, it was about who could bring Labor back to the meatpots faster. Corbyn, who managed to get young people excited about politics again with Momentum, or Smith, who also appeals to voters beyond the center-left.

Distracted by conservative problems

With its summer theater, the Labor Party distracted from the problems of the even hopelessly divided conservative government of Prime Minister Theresa May. Even three months after the Brexit vote, there is no concrete roadmap for its implementation. While the responsible ministers are blocking each other, the few remaining Brexit opponents and the majority of supporters in the cabinet are eyeing each other with suspicion.

Regardless of who will lead the Labor Party from Saturday onwards, he will have the almost insoluble task of reconciling the wings. Should this not succeed, a spin-off seems inevitable. The Tories in particular would rejoice because they were the real beneficiaries. The splitting of votes between two left parties would bring them a large number of additional seats in the next general election thanks to the majority vote and further weaken the left camp.