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Preparing For Government: What Labour Needs Now

13/06/2017 12:50 BST | Updated 13/06/2017 12:50 BST
DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS via Getty Images

Jeremy Corbyn won.

Not a majority of seats. Not a majority of the vote. But a victory, nonetheless.

The Labour leader now benefits from the support of the majority of the PLP, has gained respect across the political spectrum and enjoys increased support from Labour members (increasing Labour membership by 150,000 since the election).

Labour is now on-course for a membership of 1,000,000 activists - inspired and excited by the election result - growing its campaign base and motivating supporters to fight another general election as soon as possible.

The people I've spoken to are ready. Most Labour members cannot wait to hit the doorstep and obliterate the new Tory marginals formed last week.

Many Conservative seats - including Hastings (Amber Rudd) and Putney (Justine Greening) - are now held by majorities of just a few hundred votes. Labour's strategy will be unrecognisable to the last election; able to mobilise resources in seats which were - until now - unwinnable.

In seats with small Labour majorities, resources will be diverted to retain them (areas like Kensington, Gower and Derby North). The young vote - which increased majorities in places like Hampstead & Kilburn, Ilford North and Ealing Central - will come out once more to build on the gains made last week.

The task isn't easy; but smaller Tory majorities and increased Labour resources could hand Corbyn the majority he needs, whenever the next election is called.

For now, Labour's job is to prepare for government; whether this is achieved via another election or the Tories' inability to form a government in the coming weeks.

Nothing is certain, but one thing is clear: Labour can win an election under Jeremy Corbyn.

And yet, despite a government in chaos and a PM so weak she's unable to command even a sandwich to the Cabinet table, some Labour supporters remain dissatisfied.

With Yvette Cooper and Chuka Umunna opening themselves to Shadow Cabinet roles, many Corbyn loyalists remain unconvinced.

Corbyn's success was - without doubt - a vindication of the loyal support gained over the past two years, increasing Labour's membership to record levels and inspiring a new generation of activists.

Despite 172 Labour MPs signing a motion of no confidence, Jeremy Corbyn remains; twice defying odds in the leadership elections, beating even greater odds in the general election; winning Labour its first net gain since 1997, with an increase of thirty seats. For context, the Labour Party has won thirty seats or more just nine times (including this one) since its creation almost 120 years ago, spanning thirty-one general elections.

So why shouldn't we gloat? Why shouldn't we refuse the services of MPs who - actively and publicly - worked against us? Why let them anywhere near the front-bench?

The truth is, we need them.

We need to reward those who've remained loyal to the leadership, but we mustn't let personality get in the way of forming a formidable government.

We need to accept that, on many occasions, we've been sorely lacking the skills and experience many in the PLP possess.

Diane Abbott - much as she deserves our praise and appreciation for standing with Corbyn in difficult circumstances - is not capable of fulfilling her role in government. She's been a liability throughout the campaign, whether this was down to health problems or something else. She is not fit to serve as Home Secretary, and her removal from this post just hours before polling day may well have helped tip the balance in places like Kensington and Canterbury (where Labour won by just 20 and 187 votes, respectively).

Jeremy Corbyn has been clear: he wants to bring all wings of the Party together, strengthening Labour's position in Parliament.

I haven't met a single Corbyn supporter who disagrees with him on this. And yet, when the PLP admits it was wrong; when Cooper, Umunna, Eagle, Smith, Coyle and others admit their mistakes, a handful of "Corbynistas" use it as an opportunity to widen the gap between the PLP and the front-bench.

I want John McDonnell, Barry Gardiner, Emily Thornberry, Rebecca Long-Bailey, Angela Rayner, Cat Smith and others to stay in the Shadow Cabinet. They're integral to the Labour project and remain loyal servants of the membership. But they're also formidable politicians. They connect with the public. They motivate their constituents. They're smart, intelligent and quick-witted. They're important not just for their support of the leadership but for their ability to get things done.

Nia Griffith, Diane Abbott, Andy McDonald, even - to an extent - Jon Ashworth - do not possess these qualities and are not suitable for the challenges ahead.

We need the experience and influence of an Yvette Cooper or Chuka Umunna, a Caroline Flint or a Chris Bryant - even, dare I say it, a Harriet Harman or a Lisa Nandy. They can bridge the gap between the PLP and the front-bench and begin healing the wounds inflicted on the leadership.

Think back to last year. Think how difficult it was for Corbyn to achieve what he wanted; how difficult it was to even walk to Parliament, let alone vote in it. Remember the divisions. Remember the difficulties caused by the PLP. Would it be better for Corbyn-deserters to admit they were wrong and move-forward with us? Or would it be better, at this critical time - when we have a chance of government and a majority at the next election - to cut ourselves off from 75% of our MPs?

We need to act responsibly.

If we refuse to welcome the PLP's support, then we're sabotaging the national interest.

Jeremy wants to reach-out and build bridges: he doesn't want us at the other end lighting a match.

Act in the national interest, work together; and help build the next Labour government.