Back in the day when politics was predictable, opposition parties struggled to get airtime as the news agenda primarily focused on the government and it’s activities. For two years, the travails, divisions and fast-changing dynamics within Labour have defied that particular piece of conventional wisdom. Just at it seemed the narrative was turning in their favour, the wounds have re-opened.
Yesterday was meant to be about the tortured passing of Theresa May’s Queen’s Speech – fatally damaged by the election result, weakened in parliament and compromised by her toxic deal with the DUP. Instead, headlines were equally focused on Jeremy Corbyn sacking three front-benchers, after 51 Labour MPs defied the party whip to abstain on Chuka Umunna’s amendment, instead backing his call for the UK to remain in the Single Market and Customs Union.
When this piece was initially conceived two days ago, the plan was to explain how Labour could move from opposition to government in the not too distant future. In short – unite and oppose. Use the successful oppositions of David Cameron and Tony Blair as templates. Keep policies light, clear, undivisive with the party and popular. Wait for the government to implode, then sweep to power.
Corbyn could demonstrate unity by giving a couple of big-hitting opponents key roles – Umunna or bringing back Yvette Cooper to replace the hapless Diane Abbott as Shadow Home Secretary. Time it just before the conference, therefore maximising publicity and riding his recent wave of popularity. Suffice to say, that idea looks dead in the water.