One thing that hasn’t changed in the Labour party is that the hand that controls the shortlist controls the world. Labour’s power brokers used that power very effectively yesterday in drawing up the shortlist for the party’s next general secretary: in the red corner we have Jennie Formby, senior Unite official and the preferred candidate of the leader’s office. And in the, uh, other red corner we have Christine Blower, former general secretary of the National Union of Teachers.
Drawing up a list of options that consist of your preferred candidate and a smack on the head is a very old Labour trick (as well as being a very old New Labour trick) and this one is a masterclass of the genre. While no Corbynsceptic will be able to fairly argue that Blower isn’t qualified for the role, her long history in movements outwith Labour means that she will be an unpalatable choice for most Corbynsceptics on the party’s ruling national executive.
Victory to Jeremy Corbyn, then? Well, it is a sign that the leader of the opposition’s office is getting better at managing these internal battles. But it’s also a sign that, for the moment, Corbynite hegemony doesn’t look any more inclined to be consultative than what came before. (See also: the party’s Brexit policy.)
There is a large dash of the old in Corbyn’s new politics. And as far as Labour goes, whether you think that’s a good thing or a bad thing speaks to the most interesting schism in that party: between those who see the promise of Corbynism largely in what it could do the country, and those who see it as a catalyst for real party change that looks likely to unused.