SUPPORTERS of Jeremy Corbyn in Hampstead and Kilburn were warned by their own Labour Party colleagues that retaining him as the party’s leader could lead to the loss of the parliamentary seat here, should the Conservatives call a quick general election and achieve a landslide win. But the doom-laden predictions were roundly dismissed, as members of the constituency Labour Party met last night and rather emphatically voted to nominated him to win this summer’s leadership contest against Owen Smith. It bore out those claims that a CLP vote in favour of a leadership contest earlier this year had been deceptive, as then only branch delegates could vote. Among delegates there is a greater thirst for Corbyn to go, but when voting was opened here to all members, Corbyn beat Smith, 96 to 54.
As before, it’s worth pointing out that there are potentially 2k plus Labour members in Hampstead and Kilburn, and these are the views of those that turn up to meetings and are most enthusiastic about their membership. But it’s fair for Corbyn’s supporters to say the result reflects what Smith’s supporters must really dread, that whatever the Labour MPs at Westminster do and however much some local Labour councillors tweet scathingly about him, there are significant numbers of the membership – this contest’s electorate – who are ready to defend Corbyn this summer.
Locally, it’s been possible to hear a mix of reasons for this in recent weeks. Some simply don’t hold him accountable for the EU referendum result and blame it all on David Cameron’s decision to hold one in the first place. Some members, of course, are naturally enthused by the left wing direction that Corbyn brings, others feel he just hadn’t been given long enough before the dissenting MPs pounced, and a fair few are a little staggered at the alternative on offer, feeling unable to vote for someone like Smith who they had never really heard of just a couple of months ago.
There is a view that if some of the noisy, big name dissenters at Westminster were unwilling to go over the trenches on this, and happy enough to leave it to Smith, why should rank and file members join the insurgency. One member at last nights meeting suggested afterwards that the constant accusation that Corbyn is unelectable was coming from people who realised they themselves would be unelectable in 2020 and were keeping their powder dry for their own career ambitions for the election after next.
The striking thing is that the CLP in Hampstead and Kilburn, deliciously unpredictable as ever, nominated Yvette Cooper last summer, albeit narrowly from Corbyn. But last night wasn’t a close call. It’s a big win, and he’s gone from losing to a moderate/moderniser/Blairite (readers choose their own label) to winning here. Once again, then, you could see why Hampstead and Kilburn MP Tulip Siddiq has tiptoed so carefully through the issue of the Labour Party leadership, and has been cast alternately as a peacemaker or a fence-sitter. She has heavy numbers on her patch supporting Corbyn, while at the same is being told by those who want change that his leadership could cut short her time as the local MP.