New leader a driving force for change

To say that the last few days, and even weeks, have been momentous ones for the Labour Party might just be the under-statement of the year.

In that time, the party has been through perhaps its most unpredictable — although, in its latter stages, very predictable — leadership election in recent times. By the time the result was due to be announced last Saturday, few either within or without our party expected anything other than success for Jeremy Corbyn.

Make no mistake about it, politics and Parliament will be very different now that Jeremy has been elected to replace Ed Miliband as leader.

What surprised many, however, was the scale of his victory, polling very nearly 60 per cent of the votes.

At the start of the leadership election, Jeremy was the rank outsider, and he was even being urged in some quarters to pull out of the race. However, like he has done so many times inside and outside Parliament since he was first elected as MP for Islington in 1983, Jeremy stood by his principles, and as a result he has been given a mandate to lead the party.

He is, without question, a controversial figure and, many might argue, a controversial choice as leader. What he has done over the past few weeks, however, has been to shake up the political system in this country by galvanising support and interest in the selection of a party leader, and indeed politics, in a way few could have ever imagined.

Many thousands of people have joined or re-joined the Labour Party, enthused and excited by what they see as a new and fresh approach to politics and the part we have to play in that.

He will court controversy and attacks by the Tory Press, of that there is no doubt, and both began almost immediately after his election was announced, and continued with criticism of the perceived lack of women in his first few shadow cabinet announcements. If his critics had waited 24 hours, however, they would have seen the final selection of appointments reveal that half of his shadow cabinet are female MPs.

Make no mistake about it, politics and Parliament will be very different now that Jeremy has been elected to replace Ed Miliband as leader. He will give no quarter and will expect to be given none by the opposition parties.

He has already hinted at a different approach to Parliamentary issues, such as Prime Minister’s Question Time for example, which if they bring about a change from the Punch-and-Judy knockabout sessions television viewers have become accustomed to seeing, will be no bad thing. Jeremy has also given a broad hint that he will be inviting members of the public to submit questions they want him to ask David Cameron during PMQ sessions. Again, that could be interpreted as an innovative and completely fresh way of engaging more people in taking an interest in politics.

As a result of the leadership contest, Jeremy has been given a solid, no-nonsense deputy in Tom Watson, another experienced Parliamentarian, who actually visited Morpeth during his campaign.

In his first major television appearance, Tom called upon our party to unite behind the new leadership team, within and outside of the House of Commons. That is something we all need to do if Labour is to continue to be an effective opposition and a strong voice of reason, at a time when the Conservative Government seems hell-bent on continuing its attack on the most vulnerable in our society.

Only time will tell how history will recall Jeremy’s leadership. But it might be worth recalling the achievements of one of his predecessors, Clement Attlee. In post-Second World War Britain, at a time of unprecedented austerity and pressure on the economy, he stood on a mandate of peace and investment in public services and housing. Does that not strike a chord today?

Jeremy has already proved to be a driving force for change in his own party. Perhaps he should now be given the opportunity to prove he can bring about a change for the better for the whole country.