Labour conference kicked off this weekend with the conclusion of what seems like the longest leadership election campaign in history. And as the dust settles, nothing really has changed. Given how much Jeremy Corbyn has altered the make-up of the Labour Party – 70% of party members have joined since the General Election that was somehow less than 18 months ago – there was never really any doubt that the incumbent Leader would remain.
The returning Leader was triumphant in his victory, but offered an olive branch to his parliamentary party by claiming that he will “wipe the slate clean”. It will be interesting to see whether this is accepted by the rebels, and if so by who. With his ‘mandate’ from the membership increasing it is pretty certain that, barring a total upset, Mr Corbyn will lead Labour into the next General Election, whenever that may be. With Labour dropping to just 26%, 15% behind the Conservatives, in polling released yesterday, many will be wondering how they turn Mr Corbyn’s Labour Party into an election-winning operation.
Don’t expect everyone to be playing happy families straight away, mind you. A rally for Labour First, the centre-left group, spilled out onto the streets yesterday, with Michael Dugher MP telling the crowds that “the Labour Party maybe going nowhere but we are going nowhere – this is our party”. The threat of de-selections, with the upcoming boundary changes offering Mr Corbyn cover for holding them, ensures that it’s not going to get any quieter on the Opposition benches.