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Jeremy Corbyn ends his first 90 days as leader in a strong position

Victory in a series of proxy wars has left the Labour leader's allies bouyant. 

Corbynism for a decade? It no longer sounds ridiculous.

John McDonnell sets out the party leadership’s best case scenario in an interview with Fabian Review, saying: “I want to get Labour elected in 2020. I’d like to serve a term as Chancellor so we get the economy back on the road.” Although Jeremy Corbyn has not confirmed his thinking, he is believed to favour a similar timetable. By 2025, Corbyn will be 75, just five years younger than Winston Churchill, the oldest Prime Minister of the 20th Century, who was 80 when he resigned in 1955, and 10 years younger than William Gladstone, who was 85 at the end of his political career.

Clive Lewis, who is believed to be the most likely successor from the Corbynite wing of the party, will likely be brought into the shadow cabinet if, as expected, the leader conducts a reshuffle in the new year.

Although Momentum, the organisation set up as the continuation of Corbyn’s leadership campaign, has found itself under fire in recent weeks, Momentum staffers believe that the increasing ferocity of criticism directed at them is because “they cannot attack Jeremy directly”. Michael Dugher, the outspoken shadow culture secretary, branded the group "a mob" in an interview with The House magazine, while the group has been stung by a complaint about data protection.

They are privately unfazed by Dugher’s attack and are confident that the information commissioner will exonerate them.

Indeed, Corbyn’s allies have a spring in their step following a series of triumphs in three “proxy wars” with the leader’s internal opponents. The first, over the composition of the leader’s office, has been decisively won by Corbyn. Andrew Fisher, the leader’s advisor, who came under fire for tweets appearing to endorse Class War against Emily Benn, the Labour candidate in the safe Tory seat of Croydon South. The complaint was struck down by the party’s ruling NEC. The second, over Corbyn’s attendance at the Stop the War Christmas party, has also seen the leader’s critics disappointed. Although Stop the War has come under fire as a front group for the SWP  and a variety of smaller parties on the far left, with both Caroline Lucas and Peter Tatchell criticizing the group, Corbyn will still attend the Christmas bash, despite urgings to avoid it from the PLP.

But the third is perhaps the most significant. Although both the leadership and MPs are playing down the divide over airstrikes in Syria, because, in the words of one aide “they [the 66 MPs who voted for airstrikes] don’t want to be shouted at by their members and we don’t want to look divided”, all sides are aware that many more than the 66 MPs who did vote for airstrikes were convinced on the case for extending British bombing against Isis from Iraq into Syria, but pulled back due to pressure from their constituency parties.

That raises the difficulty of dethroning Corbyn still further. Although legal experts are divided over whether the Islington North MP would be forced to seek nominations again in the event of a challenge, with Jolyon Maugham, the respected barrister and former Labour donor, arguing that he would not, and GRM Law, who have advised the party on numerous cases, telling MPs that he would, most now accept that Corbyn would be able to pull together the 35 MPs he would need to stand again.

“It’s unthinkable that if 40, 50 MPs won’t vote with the consciences on what to do about Isis, that they would keep Jeremy [off the ballot],” says one party grandee. That means that any attempt to remove Corbyn would have to be backed by a candidate capable of defeating him among the party membership – no such candidate exists in the parliamentary Labour party.

A combination of what one shadow cabinet minister calls  the activists' “sense of fair play” and what you might call “exitism” –a steady stream of anti-Corbyn members leaving the party – mean that Corbyn would easily be re-elected by the pary membership. "Jeremy is the strongest he's ever been," says one ally.

Corbyn will celebrate his first 100 days in post in ten days time, with one veteran from the leadership campaign observing: “If you look at [us], the only wounds that have made a mark have been self-inflicted”. They believe that if the leadership can cut out its “unforced errors”, they should face no serious obstacles between now and 2020.

Speaking to Fabian Review, McDonnell shares that criticism, saying that the party “has got to be quicker, and we’ve got to be sharper” in its all-round approach.

As for Corbyn’s internal opponents, depression is setting in. Although it is widely believed that Dave Prentis, the incumbent general secretary of Unison and Corbyn critic, will see of the leftwing challenge of Heather Wakefield, few expect the “big three” affiliated general secretaries to be able to force out the leader, as Len McCluskey himself faces a tricky struggle to secure his re-election in 2018, while Tim Roache, the newly-elected general secretary of the GMB, is believed to be focusing on internal issues over the coming years.

Small wonder that the party’s Corbynsceptics are increasingly despondent. One peer, speaking to the New Statesman, said “I now think it might be terminal.” Another was more blunt, saying only: “I’m going to die before we see the Tories out again.” 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman and the PSA's Journalist of the Year. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.

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Jeremy Corbyn supporters should stop excusing Labour’s anti-immigration drift

The Labour leader is a passionate defender of migrants’ rights – Brexit shouldn’t distract the new left movement from that.

Something strange is happening on the British left – a kind of deliberate collective amnesia. During the EU referendum, the overwhelming majority of the left backed Remain.

Contrary to a common myth, both Jeremy Corbyn and the movement behind him put their weight into a campaign that argued forcefully for internationalism, migrants’ rights and regulatory protections.

And yet now, as Labour’s policy on Brexit hardens, swathes of the left appear to be embracing Lexit, and a set of arguments which they would have laughed off stage barely a year ago.

The example of free movement is glaring and obvious, but worth rehashing. When Labour went into the 2017 general election promising to end free movement with the EU, it did so with a wider election campaign whose tone was more pro-migrant than any before it.

Nonetheless, the policy itself, along with restricting migrants’ access to public funds, stood in a long tradition of Labour triangulating to the right on immigration for electorally calculated reasons. When Ed Miliband promised “tough controls on immigration”, the left rightly attacked him.  

The result of this contradiction is that those on the left who want to agree unequivocally with the leadership must find left-wing reasons for doing so. And so, activists who have spent years declaring their solidarity with migrants and calling for a borderless world can now be found contemplating ways for the biggest expansion of border controls in recent British history – which is what the end of free movement would mean – to seem progressive, or like an opportunity.

The idea that giving ground to migrant-bashing narratives or being harsher on Poles might make life easier for non-EU migrants was rightly dismissed by most left-wing activists during the referendum.

Now, some are going quiet or altering course.

On the Single Market, too, neo-Lexit is making a comeback. Having argued passionately in favour of membership, both the Labour leadership and a wider layer of its supporters now argue – to some extent or another – that only by leaving the Single Market could Labour implement a manifesto.

This is simply wrong: there is very little in Labour’s manifesto that does not have an already-existing precedent in continental Europe. In fact, the levers of the EU are a key tool for clamping down on the power of big capital.

In recent speeches, Corbyn has spoken about the Posted Workers’ Directive – but this accounts for about 0.17 per cent of the workforce, and is about to be radically reformed by the European Parliament.

The dangers of this position are serious. If Labour’s leadership takes the path of least resistance on immigration policy and international integration, and its support base rationalises these compromises uncritically, then the logic of the Brexit vote – its borders, its affirmation of anti-migrant narratives, its rising nationalist sentiment – will be mainlined into Labour Party policy.

Socialism in One Country and a return to the nation state cannot work for the left, but they are being championed by the neo-Lexiteers. In one widely shared blogpost on Novara Media, one commentator even goes as far as alluding to Britain’s Road to Socialism – the official programme of the orthodox Communist Party.

The muted and supportive reaction of Labour’s left to the leadership’s compromises on migration and Brexit owes much to the inept positioning of the Labour right. Centrists may gain personal profile and factional capital when the weaponising the issue, but the consequences have been dire.

Around 80 per cent of Labour members still want a second referendum, and making himself the “stop Brexit” candidate could in a parallel universe have been Owen Smith’s path to victory in the second leadership election.

But it meant that in the summer of 2016, when the mass base of Corbynism hardened its factional resolve, it did so under siege not just from rebelling MPs, but from the “Remoaners” as well.

At every juncture, the strategy of the centrist Labour and media establishment has made Brexit more likely. Every time a veteran of the New Labour era – many of whom have appalling records on, for instance, migrants’ rights – tells Labour members to fight Brexit, party members run a mile.

If Tony Blair’s messiah complex was accurate, he would have saved us all a long time ago – by shutting up and going away. The atmosphere of subterfuge and siege from MPs and the liberal press has, by necessity, created a culture of loyalty and intellectual conformity on the left.

But with its position in the party unassailable, and a radical Labour government within touching distance of Downing Street, the last thing the Labour leadership now needs is a wave of Corbynite loyalty-hipsters hailing its every word.

As the history of every attempt to form a radical government shows, what we desperately need is a movement with its own internal democratic life, and an activist army that can push its leaders as well as deliver leaflets for them.

Lexit is no more possible now than it was during the EU referendum, and the support base of the Labour left and the wider party is overwhelmingly in favour of free movement and EU membership.

Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell and Diane Abbott are passionate, principled advocates for migrants’ rights and internationalism. By showing leadership, Labour can once again change what is electorally possible.