How should Labour MPs respond to a Corbyn victory? Stick to the manifesto

by Kevin Meagher

Given nine out of ten Labour MPs did not back Jeremy Corbyn’s candidacy – and some of those who did only did so to “broaden the debate” – it is hardly surprising that most of them will greet the prospect of his victory with something shorty of alacrity.

So how do they respond if, indeed, he is triumphant next week? Broadly, there is a split between MPs who want to face him down early and those who seek to make the best of things, at least in the short term. A division, if you like, between all-out attack from Day One and retreating to fight another day, like the defeated Jedi in Star Wars.

Tony Blair’s former political secretary, the combative John McTernan is firmly in the former camp. He is urging the PLP to stand their ground against any drift leftwards. In contrast, Chuka Umunna and Tristram Hunt have formed the ginger group ‘Labour for the Common Good’ to pursue the ‘Dagobah option’.

Which to choose? Behind these competing conflict management strategies lies an altogether easier option for Labour MPs: they should simply stand by the manifesto they were elected on just four months ago.

For those worried about the party’s double-digit deficit on economic credibility – and the prospect of that getting wider with Jeremy Corbyn’s uncosted commitments – the manifesto pledges Labour MPs to a ‘Budget Responsibility Lock’ that guarantees that every Labour policy is paid for without the need for extra borrowing.

The manifesto promises to: ‘[L]egislate to require all major parties to have their manifesto commitments independently audited by the Office for Budget Responsibility.’ Indeed, it goes further: ‘A Labour government will cut the deficit every year. The first line of Labour’s first Budget will be: “This Budget cuts the deficit every year”’.

Again, in response to Corbyn’s equivocations on the EU and Nato, the manifesto couldn’t be clearer: ‘We will protect our national interests, and strengthen our long-standing international alliances, in particular, our membership of NATO and the European Union.’

And given Corbyn’s desire to cut Britain’s military capability, the manifesto is emphatic: ‘We will maintain the best Armed Forces in the world, capable of responding to changing threats in an unpredictable security landscape.’

If any significant changes to these and other measures contained in the manifesto are proposed in coming months, Labour MPs should feel compelled to defend the pledges they were elected on.

Indeed, the Corbyn campaign’s strapline – ‘Straight talking, honest politics’ – should start by honouring the commitments of May’s Labour manifesto.

Kevin Meagher is associate editor of Uncut

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24 Responses to “How should Labour MPs respond to a Corbyn victory? Stick to the manifesto”

  1. paul barker says:

    Another attempt by a Centrist to be “Clever” ie rather silly. Come 2020 Labour will presumably be running on a different manifesto, at what point are Labour MPs supposed to switch thie loyalties from the 2015 version to the 2020 one ?
    Having begun by asking which strategy to follow, the article then neatly evades its own question – just the sort of wriggling that got Labours moderates into their present mess.

  2. Robert says:

    I really think that a party needs to reconsider its policies after a defeat. As I have said elsewhere, constructively working with Corbyn to moderate his policies whould be the best approach.

  3. NickT says:

    This is ridiculous. Labour LOST THE ELECTION with the manifesto you now want to cling to as an obvious obstructionist tactic. There is no reason why Corbyn should be bound by the commitments of the previous leadership, just as Miliband was not bound by Gordon Brown’s commitments etc etc etc.

    Labour needs to absorb one lessonabove all: Blairism is dead. Nobody outside the airless rooms of the self-selected party elite wants it. The voters don’t want it. The party faithful don’t want it. The voters who drifted to Farage’s Xenophobic Bunkum Act don’t want it. Understand that and you have a chance of writing some meaningful analysis and making a contribution to the future. Childish obstructionism just guarantees more time in power for the Tories.

  4. David Walker says:

    How do you honour the commitments of a manifesto, when you are out of power and irrelevant? Why would you even want to, when the manifesto has been clearly rejected?

    Labour won’t return to power, until after another election. When there is another election, the party will have a different manifesto.

    I think that the Office for Budget Responsibility would have struggled to find any commitment to bailing out the banks at any price in the 2005 Labour manifesto. Are you suggesting that laws should have been in place to prevent Brown from doing what he did?

    The writers at Labour-Uncut increasingly look like the band playing on the sinking Titanic. This article is just bizarre. What on earth would sticking to a rejected manifesto (while out of power and with a new leader who didn’t think the manifesto was good enough) achieve, exactly?

    How many Labour voters even read the last manifesto? I doubt it was more than about 2%. Controls on immigration were a big part of it, if I remember rightly.

    Labour-Uncut now seems to be backing Yvette Cooper, who suddenly thinks that every city should be asked to accept families of refugees. The other day, she urged a meeting with local authorities to decide how many extra places could be offered.

    “It is time for a national mission on this. It requires all of us to change our attitudes.”

    She probably came up with that line, while sipping coffee from one of those lovely red ‘Controls On Immigration’ mugs that Labour ordered during this year’s campaign.

    What an utter farce.

  5. Tafia says:

    A Manifesto is a greed as a programme of government to be offered at a General Election.

    The current Manifesto was agreed prior to GE 2015 and resoundingly rejected in England and Scotland and is no longer of purpose.

    The Manifesto for GE2020 is what is important, bearing in mind that no matter what the PLP (in it’s over exagerated sense of self-importance thinks), 2015 is a proven losers manifesto and the people that picked it are proven losers.

  6. Richard says:

    Was the manifesto not our commitment to what a LP would do in government? Well, we lost. The manifesto was rejected so clearly we need a new one. That’s what parties do in opposition, reflect on why their ideas were rejected and come up with new ones.
    Any MP taking your advice, which is simply advice to fight now rather than bide their time, is likely to look a little daft at the very least.
    Anyway, rather than looking for ways to undermine a potential leader why not accept the democratic decision of the party and find ways to attack tories instead. Or is it because you are closer to tories than you are Corbyn and his supporters, the bulk of the Labour and trade union movement.

  7. Richard says:

    Was the manifesto not our commitment to what a LP would do in government? Well, we lost. The manifesto was rejected so clearly we need a new one. That’s what parties do in opposition, reflect on why their ideas were rejected and come up with new ones.
    Any MP taking your advice, which is simply advice to fight now rather than bide their time, is likely to look a little daft at the very least.
    Anyway, rather than looking for ways to undermine a potential leader why not accept the democratic decision of the party and find ways to attack tories instead? Or is it because you are closer to tories than you are Corbyn and his supporters, the bulk of the Labour and trade union movement.

  8. John P Reid says:

    I mustn’t bite
    I mustn’t bite
    I mustn’t bite

    IF…..If he wins ,he said members would be balloted in manifesto,so unless the £3 supporters join, then he won’t get it through,

    Then those who will leave there 20 months between the break away four and the October 1982 by-election , many who will leave will see through the May 2016 elections, and the Eu referendum, plus, the 2018 council elections will be to late for Jeremy to realize the gems up as labour lose more than a third of their votes, but then following from the 2014 council elections where we did well, we were always going to do bad at the 2018 elections.

  9. Tony says:


    Yet another anti-Corbyn article. We have not had one of them for a while.

  10. Mike says:

    Stick to a losing manifesto? None of the others would do that – Corbyn was most positive about the manifesto than any of the others who were so keen to boost themselves at Miliband’s expense. This is just desperate.

    My guess is that the next 18 months will see the PLP undermining Corbyn from within (‘an anonymous senior Labour Shadow Cabinet member today said…’) and boostering Chuka Umunna or somebody unbloodied by defeat this time round, and will hope that the enthusiasm among the party activists has died down. I don’t see how this wouldn’t lead to a significant split, most of the activists I know are in no mood to hand the party they give so much time and money to back to those who draw a very good wage by piggybacking the movement, but that might be transitory.

  11. blenheim says:

    I have some sympathy with the objective here, but the logic doesn’t stack up. Whoever is elected will choose to change the party’s policies: that’s the whole point.

    If Kendall were elected you’d have changes which would move the party towards the centre, with Corbyn you’re going to have changes which move the party towards the hard left.

    If Labour MPs stick to this line they’ll make the task of any future moderniser that much harder. Instead, they should say that they are voting with their principles. This is a better line as it’s one that Corbyn himself used for the last 30+ years.

  12. The problem with Labour’s May promise to “cut(s) the deficit every year” is that it ignores economic reality. The difference between what the Government spends and what it gets back in taxes is simply what is saved in the economy by the users of the currency. ie the pound sterling. That saving could be you and I putting some money into National Savings certificates or it could be the Bank of China not wanting to spend all the currency it earned selling us stuff.

    That saving is the source of government debt. The savers end up owning government debt by choice in other words. It’s the same story in all other countries too. All the world’s government debts (National Debts) total to something like $60 trillion. (or the equivalent in different currencies) We don’t owe that to Mars! We owe it to all those who have chosen to save in different currencies.

    Since when has it ever been possible for a Labour Government to tell you or I or the Chinese central bank that we shouldn’t save our money in pounds?

    Anyone who thinks that is economically illiterate. That pledge makes no sense whatsoever. It’s on a par with those legislators in America who wanted to re-define PI to be some more convenient and rational number.

    Crazy in other words.

  13. Bob Crossley says:

    Well that’s fair enough, but really this is just a variant of retreat and regroup, it’s retreating under the cover of fire and regrouping in a bunker. It doesn’t answer the question of what to do when the manifesto doesn’t give cover and the leaders line is unacceptable. And it doesn’t answer the question of when to launch a counteroffensive, or even if that’s a useful plan. My feeling is that once you’re stuck in the manifesto dugout it’s going to get harder and harder to get out.

    It’s unreasonable in any case to base your dissent on the proposition that the party can’t change its mind. What if the party actually improved on a manifesto pledge? Would you expect MPs to stick to the manifesto then? Surely not! You would expect them to exercise their judgement, and very right too. And in the same way an MP voting with the manifesto but against a new party line is excercsing their judgement, and should be prepared to justify their actions with more than the casual wave of an old piece of paper.

  14. Landless Peasant says:

    Corbyn is one of the few genuine Socialists among you.And you wonder why you lost. Bollocks to Austerity. Bollocks to Blair. Bollocks to Blue Labour. If you want my vote get behind Corbyn and back him all the way, you two-faced hypocritical bunch of Class Traitors.

  15. john P Reid says:

    landless peasant we don’t wonder why we lsot,do you wonder why we lost in 1983 by a bigger amount, class traitors, Corbyn sent his infant to private school

    Mike well said

  16. WHS says:

    What opposition party, whether the Tories in opposition or Labour in opposition, whether led from the left or the right, has ever stuck to the manifesto on which it was defeated? That is the whole point – you re-work the manifesto to face the changed circumstances 5 years on.

  17. WHS says:

    And quite apart from that, is this the same Kevin Meagher who is in the New Statesman essentially saying that Corbyn started the Northern Ireland peace process and brought Sinn Fein to the table, and comparing Corbyn to Mandela? Quite schizophrenic.

  18. Bob says:

    Landless peasant, please define class traitor, you are perpetuating a myth.

  19. Tafia says:

    Class traitors – a faux socialist party that puts middle class aspirations higher in it’s priorities than the living standards of it’s core vote. For example prioritising cheap mortgages over social housing.

    You sort out society from the bottom up – not the other way around. There isn’t a single mortgage anywhere on the planet more important than a council house for a low paid family. At all, ever.

    And the list doesn’t stop at housing.

  20. Bob says:

    Tapia, so all the middle class and above members of the Labour Party count for nothing in your view. Hard working and aspirational is not a reason to be a member or supporter.
    The Labour Party deserted its ‘core vote’ years ago, but looking at the Labour fiefdoms in the north, they were surprised when UKIP addressed the concerns of its ex core vote and they got the results. London is a different case altogether.

    Even Labour councillors don’t care about the core vote, just look at the antics of decrying and covering up CHILD RAPE AND SEXUAL EXPLOITATION in places like Rotherham Rochdale Oxford and many other places. Labour covered up, accused people of racism answer Islamophobia when the issue was raised. The criminal McShane comes to mind as he did not want to rock ‘community cohesion’. Wright had to be dragged from his office screaming and kicking He and many in the Labour Party knew and did NOTHING. Read Jay and Casey.
    Labour cares little for its ‘core vote’ and is only interested in niche values which its core vote either reject or refuse to vote for.

  21. Bob says:

    In fact Tafia, if you asked a high percentage of core Labour voters whether they supported the killing of two ISIL scum, they would applaud and say more please unlike the leaders of the party and the ‘chattering classes’ and Guardianista’s. They are just playing for political advantage, just what was Harriet told under Privy Council rules? What would Corbyn, he, if he is not or refuses membership of the Privey Council will be left out of the loop in briefings.

  22. Tafia says:

    Bob, Is Labour a party for the ordinary low paid workers, for example those earning under the average wage (which is two thirds of workers) and who will never earn above it (which is most of them) – or is it a party of the middle class. Because it can’t be both.

  23. Landless Peasant says:

    How about honouring the original Manifesto? Reinstate Clause IV

  24. john P redi says:

    landless peasant what original manifesto, clause 4 was intruduced by Ramsey Mcdonald in 1918, do you mean Cobryns manifesto, how about the fact labour has only got more than 40% of the vote twice in the last 50 years when we supported clause 4,and Wilson couldn’t nationalise British steel in 1964

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