A brilliant observation made by Vince Cable during Gordon Brown’s premiership was that the Prime Minister seemed to have gone “from Stalin to Mr Bean.” It’s starting to seem like Jeremy Corbyn is doing the same thing in reverse.
A few months ago, Corbyn was a bumbling figure of fun, ridiculed by the press and viewed by many as having a weak grip on his own position as Leader. But a (semi) successful election result later and the old man is rejuvenated and confident. So much so that following a rebellion by some Labour MPs over Chuka Ummuna’s Queens Speech amendment to back remaining in the single market, Corbyn responded swiftly by sacking three of his front bench, dismissing Andy Slaughter, Ruth Cadbury and Catherine West.
This could well be an indication of what is to come. Corbyn is in a stronger position now, and he will expect greater discipline from his Shadow Cabinet. Try as he will though, and even if he does rule with an iron fist, he will struggle to keep future rebellions from bubbling up. This week is a reminder that under the surface – beyond the celebrations and the back slapping and the Glastonbury appearances – all is still not well in the Labour Party. There are real differences, both ideological and personal, that exist within the Party, and ill will between the hard left and the “moderates” is something utterly engrained in Labour now.
How Corbyn attempts to manage this will be a big test for him over the coming months. With widespread criticism of Theresa May’s leadership, and the loss of the Conservatives majority in Parliament, the Opposition can seem to have the Government by the throat. But Labour’s own internal difficulties will only intensify as the Brexit countdown continues.