In under three weeks, The Conservative Party has gone from being bitterly divided on the European Union and on the verge of tearing itself apart, to reuniting and electing its new leader and Prime Minister. The Labour Party, on the other hand, has coughed, spluttered and stumbled for what feels like three years to a moribund and ineffective state of chaos
It is a huge wonder, therefore, why exactly so many Labour members are calling for a general election. It is a divided party on the verge of splitting, and one which faces a leadership contest until September. And still, it would be taking on the well-oiled Conservative Party Machine which has this week has discovered a new lease of life around a strong, unifying leader.
The importance of the Conservative Machine should not be underestimated; it shouldn’t be any wonder just how the Conservatives have managed to be in government for 51 of the last 79 years.
Though, to say it is all plain-sailing in the Conservative Party would be a lie. The Tories had to navigate a sometimes bitter referendum campaign, with the party’s members, MPs and Cabinet divided. On the morning of 24th June David Cameron, the Conservative Prime Minister, resigned after the UK voted to leave the EU, with many expecting Boris Johnson to win the ensuing leadership contest.
However, Boris’s own campaign chair and Justice Secretary, Michael Gove, soon put an end to his ambitions. Just hours before Boris Johnson was to announce his candidacy, Gove declared he did not have faith enough in him and would run himself instead. With the knife still stuck between his shoulder blades, Boris announced his withdrawal to a stunned audience.
What is most remarkable about the Conservative Party is that this kind of behaviour is not tolerated. Gove only made it through the first round of voting, and actually lost votes in the second, despite an extra 50 votes being up for grabs.
Left to face Theresa May was Andrea Leadsom, an energy minister largely unknown until the EU referendum. She managed just a weekend longer than anybody else. It had long been clear that she did possess the experience of a senior frontline politician; experience which is required for the premiership. When she made some unColleagues and party members gently advised her to withdraw. The media and social media were less gentle in their counsel.
This led to the entire Conservative Party rallying around Theresa May. A party almost at civil war with itself just three weeks ago had removed the chaff, put a halt to the dreams of a number of contenders it deemed unworthy of the coronation and placed the crown upon the head of the Ice Queen.
When you look across to the other side of the political spectrum, the temptation to continue the Royal Court comparison is too great. Jeremy Corbyn continues in his role as court jester, working with a different troupe of actors each week – or maybe they’re the same actors playing different roles? It’s become nigh on impossible to keep up.
His band of merry Momentum men serve as his personal guards, protecting him from attacks and retaliating by throwing bricks through traitors’ windows.
And just when it seemed the Labour Party’s knight in shining armour had arrived in the form of Angela Eagle, she may as well have had her helmet on backwards. Her mettle has been called into question after she flirted with the idea of launching a leadership challenge before reneging, despite having collected the 51 signatures of supporters that she needed. Just two weeks later she then announced she would make an announcement about running for the leadership. This time, the announcement was made.
At last! A challenge. Moderates and those disillusioned with Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership could finally move to topple him. Angela Eagle is perhaps not the ideal candidate, but she’s not terrible, they consoled themselves. She has more frontbench experience than most of the current frontbench combined, and has stood in at PMQs previously, landing a few more blows than Corbyn. None fatal, admittedly, but at least they landed.
Arguments as to whether the sitting leader of the Labour Party is automatically on the ballot for a leadership contest descended into farce at a meeting of the party’s National Executive Committee with at least two people left in tears and Jeremy Corbyn refusing to leave the room. In the event, after 6 hours of discussions it was decided Corbyn will automatically be on the ballot but rules about who can vote would be changed. Only those who had been members for six months before election day could vote in the contest. Around 129,000 people have signed up to Labour since the referendum three weeks ago. But, those new members may still be able to vote if they signed up as registered supporters – within 2 days and at a cost of £25.
Added to this turmoil, Owen Smith announced he will also be running. He will have to attain 51 signatures from Labour MPs and MEPs but has reportedly been sounding out colleagues’ support for several months. If he does get the requisite names he will likely end up splitting the vote, preventing either him or Eagle standing any chance of beating Corbyn.
The result of the election is expected to take place by the 23rd September. For all intents and purposes, it has been dragging on since Corbyn was first elected last September. Few Labour MPs wanted him, and many regretted providing their signatures, but it doesn’t look like he’s going anywhere soon.
The Conservatives are currently providing an exemplary display in how to get a political house in order. Labour are giving an equally excellent example of how not to do it. And it goes without saying who will reap the rewards.
Daniel Costen, Senior Account Executive, MWW PR