Rohan McWilliam on Jeremy Corbyn

corbyn_tie08:08 Monday 14th September 2015
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire

DOTTY MCLEOD: He inspired nearly 60% of the voters in the Labour leadership election. Has Jeremy Corbyn inspired you? We’ll be talking Corbyn-mania and Corby-nomics as he starts to build his team on the Opposition benches. Here’s what Labor MP Daniel Zeichner who represents Cambridge had to say earlier.
DANIEL ZEICHNER: Obviously I was disappointed for Yvette. I thought she was the right person for the job. But it was a huge mandate for Jeremy, and it’s really important that Labour MPs like me respond positively to that mandate.


DOTTY MCLEOD: The Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn has made the main appointments to his new top team, giving Shadow Cabinet jobs to close allies and political rivals. Probably the most significant decision he’s made is to put his campaign manager and fellow left winger John McDonnell into the key position of Shadow Chancellor. The man who came second to Jeremy Corbyn in the Leadership contest Andy Burnham has been made Shadow Home Secretary, while Hilary Benn will stay on as Shadow Foreign Secretary. Tony Blair’s old friend Lord Falconer has been made Shadow Justice Secretary. Several Labour MPs have expressed disappointment that the most prominent roles have gone to men, among them John Mann.
JOHN MANN: Jeremy is going to have to learn what leadership is about. And so some of his mates now today won’t get jobs, because he’s going to have to put some women in instead. And I think what he needs to make sure as well, he’s appointed three women from London. He needs to ensure that the whole country is represented, and it’s not just a London-led leadership.
DOTTY MCLEOD: Well Jeremy Corbyn’s team insist there will be a majority of women in the Shadow Cabinet. Angela Eagle is the new Shadow Business Secretary, and she’ll stand in for Mr Corbyn at Prime Minister’s Questions. Meanwhile Heidi Alexander who’s only been an MP for five years is promoted to the front bench, taking charge of health. Dave Prentice from the union Unison is pleased with the appointments so far.
DAVE PRENTICE: They’re really experienced Labour politicians of the middle ground. Andy Burnham, Hilary Benn, Lord Falconer, Angela Eagle, these are experienced people that Labour MPs have worked with over the years, who’ve been in government, and also been in opposition. And I think this Shadow Cabinet bodes well for the future. Also worth a look at who is not in Jeremy Corbyn’s team, two of his other rivals for the Leadership for a start, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall They decided they couldn ‘t serve him. And several of the old Shadow Cabinet have also walked away, Chuka Umunna said he was leaving the front bench by mutual agreement, after deciding he had too many disagreements with Jeremy Corbyn. Many are concerned about his reluctance to speak out in favour of the European Union, and his criticisms of NATO. ..
DOTTY MCLEOD: Rohan McWilliam is at Anglia Ruskin, a Professor of Modern British History and Director of the Labour History Research Unit. Gosh, quite a big weekend I’d have thought in your line of work Rohan.
ROHAN MCWILLIAM: Oh absolutely. A momentous day on Saturday, an extraordinary moment which I don ‘t think many of us would have expected two or three months ago.
DOTTY MCLEOD: So why is it momentous?

ROHAN MCWILLIAM: Because Jeremy Corbyn becoming Leader signals a dramatic change in direction. Quite simply it means the end of New Labour, and more deeply I think it means the end of an approach to governing the country that was developed in the mid-1990s by both Bill Clinton and Tony Blair.
DOTTY MCLEOD: OK. How do you mean that? Tell me what you mean by that.
ROHAN MCWILLIAM: By an unashamed appeal to the centre ground in politics. What Blair did was he took the Labour Party, which had been very much a left wing party in the 1980s, and made it appeal to Middle England, and to try and understand the concerns of ordinary people. And to focus not just on redistribution of wealth, which had been the standard socialist line, but also to talk equally about the creation of wealth, something I don’t think Jeremy Corbyn is known for doing.
DOTTY MCLEOD: So this move to the left, what do you think it will do for Labour’s election chances?
ROHAN MCWILLIAM: Well put it this way. This morning I think the Tories must think they’ve died and gone to heaven. I think the most likely outcome of the 2020 election is a Tory landslide.
DOTTY MCLEOD: Right. You see I had thought that. I thought the Tories would be skipping. But then they were putting out tweets and statements yesterday saying that Jeremy Corbyn winning the Labour Leadership meant that the end of the world was nigh and that he was a threat to national security, and I wondered whether that meant that they were a little bit more worried than they might let on.
ROHAN MCWILLIAM: Well I think they need to show that they’re taking this seriously. I think they also don’t need to let their quite rightly .. try not to appear too cocky about this. But at the same time it’s very difficult to see a Labour Party led by Jeremy Corbyn winning an election.
ROHAN MCWILLIAM: And certainly appealing to those kinds of Middle England voters.
DOTTY MCLEOD: Do you think he will stay as Leader then for very long?
ROHAN MCWILLIAM: I do, because he has such a massive majority. He got almost 60% of the vote on Saturday. It will be very difficult for there to be a putsch against Corbyn, even if as I suspect he doesn’t do very well in the opinion polls.
DOTTY MCLEOD: Some of his policies do sound quite extreme from the outset. things like scrapping Trident, things like withdrawing from NATO. Will he be able though to enshrine those policies in some kind of manifesto? Will he be able to get them past the rest of his own party?
ROHAN MCWILLIAM: Well that we will have to see. I don’t see the Parliamentary Labour Party wearing withdrawal from Europe, and withdrawal from NATO. I think he’ll probably go for a free vote on Trident. But he will definitely try and scrap Trident. He’s less clear about the question of the EU. And indeed he’s less clear about the economy. Throughout his campaign he’s spoken about looking at different options without a very clear policy.
DOTTY MCLEOD: OK. Really nice to talk to you Rohan. Thank you very much for your time this morning. Rohan McWilliam is a Professor of Modern British History and Director of the Labour History Research Unit at Anglia Ruskin. There has apparently over the last couple of days been a real surge in Labour membership in Britain. I saw an estimate yesterday that 15,000 new members had joined the Labour Party just in the last couple of days, since Jeremy Corbyn was announced as the Leader.