The result of the referendum on the United Kingdom’s membership in the European Union had profound effects not only one the public sphere, economy but also on parties and politics in the UK.
It seemed like a never-ending spiral of events, in the Conservative Party the resignation of the Prime Minister David Cameron, Johnson-Gove leadership bid and a swift election of Theresa May as a new Prime Minister and her decision to re-shuffle the Cabinet.
In the Labour Party – Labour MPs perceiving Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership as insufficient during the pre-referendum support to the Remain campaign, countless resignations of the Shadow Cabinet members, which led to a vote of no-confidence towards the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn. After a very brief Angela Eagle vs Owen Smith vs Jeremy Corbyn leadership bid, Angela Eagle pulled out making it a Corbyn vs Smith race.
The race but mainly the result of the contest will define the Labour Party for the next few years, and some of the outcomes are already visible – the staggering increase of new members in the Labour Party – which has grown since the result of the EU referendum and during the leadership contest, from 388,407 in January 2016 to 551,000 in September 2016, making Labour the biggest party in the Western Europe., and an even greater support for Jeremy Corbyn. On the 24th of September Jeremy Corbyn received 61.80% of the vote share in the race and triumphed among all three sections: party members, affiliated supporters and registered supporters, while Owen Smith achieved 38.20% of the vote share, which included a very high number of votes from the young Labour Members. Jeremy Corbyn became the leader of the Labour Party for the second time, securing even bigger mandate receiving over 62,000 more votes than in the 2015 Leadership contest.
The Despatch Box had an opportunity to speak to two Labour Party Members, and talk to them about the Leadership contest and the candidate that each of them voted for, as well provide a young people’s view on the Labour Party. Jennifer Mills voted for Jeremy Corbyn and Andrew Mitchell voted for Owen Smith.
Why did you vote for Jeremy Corbyn / Owen Smith? What policies or aspects in their campaigns persuaded you vote for them?
J.M : ‘’ Jeremy Corbyn is one of the first party politicians I’ve heard whose words actually resonated with me. Despite being political, I’ve never been very interested in party politics, but Jeremy Corbyn was the first politician I’ve heard use such a large platform to talk about ideas that were relevant to me. We’re used to politicians taking a non-committal approach to simple ideas, but Corbyn is very vocal about a range of issues I care about: free education, pro-immigration, pro-nationalisation, anti-austerity. Lots have criticised Corbyn for his historical flouting of the Labour whip but I find his approach very refreshing; he consistently stands up for what he believes is socially just, even in the face of conflict.’’
A.M: ‘’ I supported Owen Smith because I believed that the way the party was functioning needed to change; both candidates were new to leadership, but Smith seemed the most likely to attempt to understand why people are not voting for us, whereas all I got from the Corbyn camp was complaints about the media. Smith had experience in both the public sector and private sector, and had forced the government back on Tax Credit cuts when he was Shadow DWP. He wasn’t New Labour, but he was not Corbyn’s Labour either, which is collapsing in the polls.’’
Which candidate had better policies that concentrated on young people?
J.M: ‘’ Corbyn’s campaign addressed the issues facing young people more clearly. He has openly called for the reinstating of the education maintenance allowance, disabled students allowance, and student grants as well as education for all that is free at the point of use. Housing is also a huge issue for young people and beyond both candidates’ calls for more affordable housing, Corbyn has also proposed tenant’s rights charters, the abolition of agents fees and unsecure tenancies, and better protection for renters, which is particularly relevant to us as ‘Generation Rent’. Lots of the discussion focused around the idea of ‘electability’, but policy-wise, Corbyn towered over Smith.’’
A.M ‘’ Both candidates argued for young people; both campaigned on ridding the University of Tuition fees, on reinstating EMA, on apprenticeships and on housing. But Young People don’t vote; we have to base an electoral strategy and a manifesto on people who vote, and Smith was the candidate who looked to the older generations more. What is strange is how this didn’t reflect on the vote. Smith didn’t win in many categories, but he did amongst Young People.’’
What was your reaction to the result of the elections?
J.M: ‘’ Both happy and relieved, with the political landscape we have now, it would have been wrong to have been complacent. I was very happy with the result, but I think the whole leadership election was both unnecessary and highly undemocratic.’’
A.M : ‘’ How do you react to something that you knew was going to happen? I think most on the Smith campaign had accepted we were to lose months ago, maybe even before it all even started. My reaction was – ok, it’s done, let’s get out there and talk to people, and let them know why Labour is the right choice on Election Day.’’
We have seen a huge increase in the membership of the Labour Party, why should young people join the Labour Party?
J.M: ‘’ Primarily to help fight for the policies and ideas we’ve now voted for a Leader with a mandate on. The more people join and take part in Labour’s campaigns, the more we can make sure that the PLP is genuinely taking the action we want them to. The more vocal we can be, the stronger an argument politicians like Corbyn can make to continue an anti-cuts, anti-austerity agenda. Also, it helps ensure your position in the democratic processes of the Labour party, which is really important!’’
A.M: ‘’ The Labour Party are the only Party for young people – the Greens and the Liberal Democrats can shout from the side-lines, but it is Labour governments that have continually improved the lives of Young People. From SureStart, to the future jobs fund, the minimum wage, record levels of literacy and numeracy in schools, record number of students at University, 36,000 more teachers, doubled the number of apprenticeships. The Tories cut the things that matter to young people most. The Labour Party is the only Party of government that can fight for Young People – and it has a history of doing so.’’
The Labour Leadership contest has most certainly changed the way we view power in the hands of the ordinary voters, and it has led to a new chapter in the Labour Party. Jeremy Corby’s role as the leader of the Labour Party will not be easy, as he is facing the post-Brexit Britain, new Conservative cabinet, and still to an extent hostile situation in his own party.