Jeremy Corbyn has predicted that his now-assumed election as Labour leader on Saturday will prompt a coming-together of the party, as he prepares to try to change politics by offering a collegiate and less confrontational leadership style.
With the polls finally closed and with his supporters confident that he has gone from being a 200-1 outsider to an astonishing winner, Corbyn plans to follow an acceptance speech by speaking to tens of thousands due to march in London on Saturday in support of refugees. He is determined to foster what he regards as a new social movement that has emerged this summer inside the wider labour movement.
Corbyn is to offer shadow cabinet posts to all wings of the party. Speaking to ITV News, he said: “MPs are important but they are not the entirety of the Labour party.
“We have a big job to do in exposing the government’s austerity programme and what it’s doing to the poorest and most vulnerable in our society: their bill on welfare reform and their bill on trade union issues and the way they are actually systematically slicing up public services in Britain through massive cuts and local government grants.”
But Corbyn faced a wave of criticism from senior party figures, some of whom warned that his supporters were sinister and represented little more than a Trotskyist 80s throwback.
Liz Kendall, the Blairite candidate, predicted that a Corbyn leadership would end in electoral failure and repeated her pledge that she would not serve on his frontbench since their political differences on the economy and foreign policy were too fundamental. Kendall said: “When the public are crying out for politicians to say what they mean, and mean what they say, I cannot serve on Labour’s frontbench if Jeremy Corbyn is leader.”
A wider group of senior shadow cabinet members have now collectively agreed to refuse to serve, saying they will accept the democratic result and give Corbyn the time and space to set out his own agenda. They argue that if a group of seven or so MPs were in the shadow cabinet while deeply opposed to his politics, it would be a recipe for instability and division and it would be better instead to have an honest disagreement outside the shadow cabinet.
They are stressing that they will accept his democratic mandate and its legitimacy, but that does not mean they are required to say they believe Corbyn will make a credible prime minister.
The first solid indications of the party mood will come on Friday when the London party announces whether Dame Tessa Jowell has beaten off a challenge from Sadiq Khan, the union-backed candidate, to be nominated as Labour’s candidate for London mayor.
Jowell hopes her personal, above-politics appeal will immunise her from the apparent leftward shift in the Labour ranks and that Khan will fail to ride to victory on a wave of Corbynism as a result.
One camp said it was “a coin toss” as to whether Khan had defeated her and the outcome may depend on how badly the vote of the third-placed candidate, David Lammy, has been squeezed.
On Friday, David Cameron will follow George Osborne in deriding Labour for vacating the centre ground, saying he watched the contest in bewilderment as Labour continued to debate whether the deficit needed to be cut.
“It’s as if the financial crash, or the election for that matter, never happened. The question is not ‘do we have money to spend?’; it’s ‘how do we spend the money that we have to achieve the outcomes we want?’
“It’s a question that requires you to think about the role and nature of the state, the reform of public services, the way in which government programmes are designed and delivered – all of which have been totally absent in this Labour leadership election.
“Whoever wins the Labour leadership tomorrow, this is now a party that has completely vacated the intellectual playing field and no longer represents working people. It is arguing at the extremes of the debate, simply wedded to more spending, more borrowing, and more taxes. They pose a clear threat to the financial security of every family in Britain.”
Kendall, in a reflective speech, conceded Corybn’s campaign had “mobilised and enthused vast numbers of people in a way we haven’t seen for decades. The debate that’s exploded during this contest has been simmering for many years.”
The Labour MP Jon Cruddas said: “I’m worried that [a Corbyn-led party] might turn into an early 80s tribute act, a Trotskyist tribute act, which has a culture around it which is very hostile to anybody who disagrees.” .
He said he feared it could collapse in front of the electorate. “At some stage, we’re going to have to pivot out of this leadership election and confront the realities of the country, which could be quite a salutary experience for us.”
Kendall said: “The programme Jeremy Corbyn offers is not new. His policies and politics are the same now as they were in the 1980s – and will end up delivering the same result.
“Neither is he the sole keeper of Labour’s principles. No one has a monopoly on being led by their conscience. But modernisers must be honest with ourselves: many people who’ve joined our party in recent months do not believe we are offering change and some of them doubt our principles altogether. This is partly because too often in the past we’ve come across as technocratic and managerial.
“We’ve allowed ourselves to be defined as purely pragmatic – concerned with winning elections alone, rather than winning for a purpose – thereby ceding the mantle of principle to the far left.”
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