Right now, Labour is not a party of unity. Corbyn has been its leader for a year now, but the controversial former back bencher who was thrust into the limelight has failed to bring the party together. Now he faces a leadership challenge from Owen Smith. So, can Corbyn hang on to the leadership of the party? Or will it be the task of the new man to present a challenge to the Conservatives?
Despite a turbulent twelve months, Labour remain the major opposition to the Conservative party. The person who wins will almost undoubtedly be the one tasked with leading party through the next General Election against Theresa May. So one thing that party members will have to focus on is who is most able to lead the party successfully back into government. Jeremy Corbyn has been leading Prime Minister’s Questions against the Tories for a year now, to fairly mixed reactions. PMQs can be particularly challenging at points and Corbyn has taken a while to get to grips with it, especially with the change of opponent from David Cameron to Theresa May. He has become more adept in recent weeks, however, and is beginning to appear a lot more competent in challenging May. This is exemplified particularly in her controversial push to bring back more grammar schools to the UK. Owen Smith would, of course, be a novice at PMQ’s. Yet, Smith is regarded as a much more ‘conventional’ politician, and many people have criticized Corbyn’s brand of ‘nicer politics’, arguing that is has prevented him from doing well in the past. Smith wouldn’t have these troubles, but would still have to get used to PMQs very quickly, and an inexperienced leader would be something the Tory party would certainly try to capitalise on. Essentially, Labour must choose between a more experienced and unique leader in Corbyn or one who would reintroduce a more conventional form of politics in Smith.
As leader of the opposition, the Labour leader has to assemble a shadow cabinet. This has been one Corbyn’s weaker points; he has struggled to even assemble a complete cabinet in the past. His issues began by him sacking Hilary Benn, after the Leeds Central MP felt he had lost confidence in Corbyn after the EU referendum. This led to the resignations of multiple MPs and the sacking of others by Corbyn as he struggled to regain the faith of his party. One of these resignations was Owen Smith, who resigned as shadow Work and Pensions Secretary. The party’s MPs have shown more support toward Smith, so he could almost have the pick of the party for his cabinet, although Corbyn now has a full cabinet behind him once again.
Smith and Corbyn are also supported by different sections of society. Corbyn has traditionally received more support from party members and with trade union members in particular. On the other hand Smith, the more conventional politician, finds a great amount of his support from inside the House of Commons and the House of Lords.
So which side will win the leadership challenge? Owen Smith is a very viable candidate; he has shown during this campaign that he does have the qualities to be a successful party leader. At the beginning of his tenure, Corbyn almost didn’t look like he could lead the party, but he has really come in to his own since the middle of 2016. Now, he looks like can pose a very viable threat to Theresa May’s government. Because he has such a wide base of supporters outside of simply MPs, I believe that Jeremy Corbyn will win this contest and continue as the leader of the Labour party.