in (2017) Journal of Elections, Public Opinion and Parties. (With T. Heppell and A. Crines)
This paper offers the first systematic evaluation of opinion within the 2015–2017 parliamentary Labour Party (PLP) towards the leadership of Jeremy Corbyn. We do this by identifying whether individual parliamentarians remained supportive of Corbyn as their party leader or not, and then relating opinion on this to a series of variables that form the basis of a unique data set on the PLP.
By constructing this data set we are able to test, via logistic regression analysis, a series of hypotheses based around (1) demographic variables – i.e. age, gender and trade union membership; (2) political variables – i.e. year of entry, constituency region, marginality, main competition and the endorsement of their constituency Labour Party (CLP) in the leadership election of 2016 and (3) ideological variables – i.e. views on continued European Union [EU] membership, immigration, intervention in Syria and the renewal of Trident.
We find that, when it comes to opposition to Corbyn, there is limited evidence of significant demographic, political or ideological patterns at play. The fear of deselection or the fear of electoral defeat did not motivate Labour parliamentarians to remain loyal to Corbyn, and nor was it the case that the PLP has evolved into clearly defined and cohesive factional blocks
Instead, our research suggests that the PLP concluded that the members had been mis- taken in their choice of leader – Corbyn was too divisive, too unelectable, and his competence was too widely questioned, to make him a credible candidate to be Prime Minister.
The drive to unseat Corbyn was a crisis of leadership as much as it was an ideological conflict – why else would so many of the supposedly loyalist Corbyn faction have voted for his removal?