Labour’s terrible paralysis

Bereft of ideas, Jeremy Corbyn's Labour is failing to make any headway against the Tories, says Matthew Partridge.


Jeremy Corbyn: inept and "supremely arrogant"
(Image credit: Copyright (c) 2017 Rex Features. No use without permission.)

In Thursday's by-elections, Labour clung on to Stoke-on-Trent Central in the face of a challenge from Ukip, but lost the once-safe seat of Copeland to the Conservatives the first time that a governing party in the UK has gained a seat at a by-election since 1982. Prime Minister Theresa May's "historic" victory "has confirmed her dominance of Britain's political terrain", says George Parker in the Financial Times.

The "resurgent" Conservatives now have "an unprecedented opportunity to advance into territory in the north of England and the Midlands that was previously regarded as off-limits". Meanwhile, defeat has "plunged Jeremy Corbyn's Labour party into a further round of recriminations".

No amount of "puerile blame-shifting" by Corbyn and his supporters can hide the "dire reality" of Labour's problems under his leadership, writes The Observer. He and his team are not only "weak in organisation, bereft of ideas and inept at basic politics", but they are also "supremely arrogant". This incompetence "should concern not just Labour supporters, but anyone who cares about effective government and the checks and balances provided by decent scrutiny from a functioning opposition".

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Opinion polls show that Corbyn is "far, far behind" May in terms of popularity with the voters, notes Jonathan Freedland in The Guardian. Yet the "terrible paralysis" within Labour means that he will only be removed "when enough people inside the Labour left, Momentum, or those trade unions that endorsed him twice" decide "the experiment has failed".

These people "need to ask themselves what they value more the dreams they projected on to this one man or the immediate need to hold back a government wreaking intolerable damage on this country's future". Delaying this choice "won't make it go away it will only make it starker".

Corbyn can take some comfort from the fact that he isn't the only leader facing tough questions. Ukip leader Paul Nuttall "did not merely lose the Stoke by-election", notes the New Statesman's George Eaton "he self-destructed in the process". With his claim to be a survivor of the Hillsborough disaster thrown into question, and both Nigel Farage and Ukip financier Arron Banks unhappy, he "may soon be relieved" of the leadership.

However, "declarations of Ukip's death by both conservatives and liberals have all the hallmarks of wishful thinking". Some Leave voters are already fed up with how slowly the process is moving and will "revolt" at other concessions "now regarded as inevitable".

Dr Matthew Partridge

Matthew graduated from the University of Durham in 2004; he then gained an MSc, followed by a PhD at the London School of Economics.

He has previously written for a wide range of publications, including the Guardian and the Economist, and also helped to run a newsletter on terrorism. He has spent time at Lehman Brothers, Citigroup and the consultancy Lombard Street Research.

Matthew is the author of Superinvestors: Lessons from the greatest investors in history, published by Harriman House, which has been translated into several languages. His second book, Investing Explained: The Accessible Guide to Building an Investment Portfolio, is published by Kogan Page.

As senior writer, he writes the shares and politics & economics pages, as well as weekly Blowing It and Great Frauds in History columns He also writes a fortnightly reviews page and trading tips, as well as regular cover stories and multi-page investment focus features.

Follow Matthew on Twitter: @DrMatthewPartri