So, after allowing some of the dust to settle after the results on Saturday, it is time to look to the meaning of the Corbyn result for politics students.
To begin with, very simply, the election of both Corbyn and Watson are both a good example of Alternative Vote at work. This is useful evidence for the electoral systems topic of Unit 1. What was particularly useful was that this system requires that the winner needs an outright majority (not a simple plurality as in First Past the Post). With Watson, it took three rounds of eliminating bottom placed candidates and redistributing their votes to achieve this. With Corbyn, he won an outright majority (59%) on the first round of voting. This is a good example of how this system works.
It is also notable that Corbyn won across all three categories of voters. ‘Registered voters’ are those who paid £3 to vote (although worth remembering they did not all necessarily sign up in the aftermath of 2015 General Election!). ‘Affiliates’ are those who are members of a union that is affiliated to Labour and ‘members’ are just that, fully paid-up members. There was lots of disquiet before the election suggesting that there were people who did not support Labour signing up for £3 in order to sabotage the election. However with Corbyn taking lead across all three types of voter, the claims he won fraudulently is very difficult to claim. Indeed, his mandate from this victory is bigger than Tony Blair’s and bigger than any current political leader in the UK.
The media attention that the leadership election gained fuelled Labour membership numbers and over 500,000 people were eligible to vote in this election. This is really useful evidence if you are discussing voter apathy as it would seem that people are politically engaged but perhaps they were looking for something different than the standard establishment figure. Indeed, the election had a 76% turnout which is rather good, especially when compared to the recent history of all political parties which has seen declining membership in favour of pressure groups and new social movements.
Finally, to ideology. This election clearly holds a wealth of evidence for use in the parties topic of Unit 1. Within minutes of the election of Corbyn, four front bench shadow cabinet members had stood down citing differences of opinion with Corbyn as the reason they wouldn’t work in his shadow cabinet. This is good evidence of the divisions within the party over the election of Corbyn and therefore useful evidence when talking about factions of parties. The left-wing tendencies of Corbyn could also be used in longer answer essays about how far Labour remains committed to it’s traditional principles – although we will need to wait out and see how many of his policies actually come to fruition. The Tories have reacted in a perhaps predictable but rather amusing way to Corbyn with the release of this video –
What this suggests is less certain! Are the Tories using the election of Corbyn to highlight ideological differences between the two parties? Are they genuinely scared of him and the grassroots support he mobilised? Other questions remain, such as how the Labour rebels will accept Corbyn? And has, as some media outlets suggested, the election of Corbyn handed the 2020 election to the Tories/Osbourne? These remain to be seen, but the election is incredibly useful for A Level students…
…and it has brought some good humour to politics classrooms to begin this new school year!