ANY HOPE THAT THE LABOUR PARTY would be able to unite behind Corbyn in 2017 to take on the Tories was dashed before Christmas when perennial whinger Jamie Reed quit Parliament to spend more time with the huge sums of money he’ll earn from the nuclear industry. He’s now been followed by Tristram Hunt, who will be parachuted into the Victoria and Albert Museum, having previously been parachuted into Stoke-on-Trent Central. This leaves the Labour Party facing a huge challenge to hold seats where Reed oversaw a falling majority leaving a tight marginal, and Hunt saw UKIP become the nearest challenger in Stoke.
Back in Westminster Corbyn has been handling the response to the NHS crisis well. Week after week at PMQs he has Theresa May on the back foot and continues to expose the chronic lack of understanding of the issues facing the NHS at the heart of government. While Labour will doubtlessly see a boost in the polls as a result of this performance, and the crisis in the NHS is likely to continue, previous elections have shown that Labour cannot win simply by focusing on the NHS.
Corbyn’s relaunch at the start of the year, including a much trailed speech on immigration, did not go as well as might have been hoped. Corbyn is coming under pressure from all sides to soften his longheld views on freedom of movement. Some in the Parliamentary Labour Party have been calling for a two-tier system while elements of the trade union movement have been calling for an end to freedom of movement altogether. Despite what was trailed in the media ahead of the speech, Corbyn didn’t go as far as some had wanted, failing to rule out accepting freedom of movement in return for access to the Single Market.
This demonstrates yet again that Corbyn must be supported by a broad social movement willing not only to spread his views with the wider public, but to enable him to be bold in the face of challenges from the right. Jeremy is a man of principle who will always stand up for what he believes in, but he needs people to stand alongside him when the forces of opposition seek to undermine him.