First published in Progress magazine
A year in decline under hard-left control
12 – Jeremy Corbyn wins 59 per cent of the vote in the ballot to becomeLabour’s new leader. Having secured 251,417 votes he becomes Ed Miliband’s even more leftwing successor. In a rambling speech with no notes, structure or real message, he introduces himself to the country in the worst possible light.
13 – Corbyn passes over economist Angela Eagle as shadow chancellor and instead gives it to John McDonnell, who in turn resigns as chair of the Labour Representation Committee, the hard-left grouping linked to the ‘Campaign Group’ [sic] of members of parliament. As the reshuffle unfolds it seems that all the top jobs go to men and that women are being ignored. To balance the shadow cabinet, new roles – that do not last a year – were created to add women to the shadow cabinet.
15 – Corbyn is accused of being ‘disrespectful’ for failing to sing the national anthem during a Battle of Britain memorial service.
23 – The Alliance for Workers’ Liberty – the far-left revolutionary group proscribed by Labour party conference in 1990, then known as Socialist Organiser – applies to the Electoral Commission to deregister as a political party to resume its focus on entryism in the Labour party.
30 – Following Labour conference’s rejection of attempts to change the party policy on Trident, Corbyn ‘undermines’ his shadow defence secretary and her review by saying he would never use Trident if he became prime minister, rendering the deterrent useless and the Nato alliance weak.
8 – As the legacy campaign to his summer leadership bid, Momentum is launched. Many people accuse it of being a party-in-a-party.
19 – Corbyn says he is not in favour of rule changes to deselect his colleagues. He later appears to go back on thisin his leadership campaign in summer 2016 when asked about attempts in Hove to deselect Peter Kyle.
17 – In the aftermath of the terrible attacks in Paris, Corbyn says he is ‘not happy’ with the police’s ‘shoot to kill’ policy in the case of a terrorist attack on British soil, horrifying many traditional Labour voters in the process.
17 – Corbyn asks the National Executive Committee to appoint close ally Ken Livingstone to head up the party’s defence review.
18 – Livingstone sparks outrage for mocking the mental health of Labour MP and long-time defence spokesperson Kevan Jones. The former mayor of London said Jones needs ‘psychiatric help’ and is ‘depressed and disturbed’.
2 – Labour MPs are given a free vote on air strikes in Syria. The 66 Labour MPs who vote in favour, including Tom Watson and 10 other shadow cabinet members, are told there is ‘no hiding place’ for their views.
11 – Corbyn attends his first fundraiser as the leader of the Labour party – but it is not to raise funds for elections or Labour candidates, but for the Stop the War coalition.
5 – On the day of the flagship train fares increase campaign launch, Corbyn overshadows his own announcement with the start of a days-long ‘recrimination’ reshuffle that sees Pat McFadden sacked for a speech on opposing terrorism. A number of other frontbenchers resign in solidarity. Maria Eagle is demoted to allow for more Trident-sceptic Emily Thornberry to become the shadow defence secretary, causing Kevan Jones to resign.
6 – The leader’s closest ally, John McDonnell, uses an interview with Channel 4 to attack Labour MPs and call members of the Labour party in Progress ‘hard-right’ and ‘Tories’. No apology is forthcoming and name-calling by the most senior member of the shadow cabinet is tolerated.
17 – Corbyn uses a Marr Show interview to support ‘reasonable accommodation’ with Argentina over the Falkland Islands, subs with no nukes and a return to ‘flying pickets’ in industrial disputes.
17 – A catalogue of complaints emerges about antisemitism at Oxford University Labour club.
27 – The Labour leader speaks at a rally trying to overturn existing Labour defence policy. The anti-Trident event also has speakers from the Green party, Left Unity and the Stop the War coalition.
28 – Jan Royall is commissioned to investigate antisemitism at Oxford University Labour club.
4 – During the local election short campaign Corbyn says, ‘I am in favour of decriminalising the sex industry’ and takes Labour off-message … again.
23 – The Times publishes a leaked list drafted by those close to Corbyn in which Labour MPs are categorised into five groups according to their loyalty to the leader.
27 – Naz Shah is suspended from the Labour party for antisemitic posts on Facebook before she was an MP. She makes a very public apology and outlines her intention to work with British Jewry. Ken Livingstone goes on radio on his wife’s birthday to contradict Shah and defend her actions. He sparks outrage by saying Hitler ‘supported Zionism … before he went mad’. Corbyn – after considerable pressure – announces Shami Chakrabarti is to head an inquiry into the problem of antisemitism in the party.
12 – Corbyn accepts an invitation to speak at Progress annual conference.
6 – Having promised to turn things around north of the border, Labour comes third in Scotland. Corbyn is the first leader of the opposition to not make gains in council elections in their first 12 months in office.
17 – Jan Royall presents her report on antisemitism to the NEC, which refuses to let the final report be published.
Late May – Corbyn takes a holiday during the European Union referendum short campaign.
1 – Vice News releases its fly on-the wall documentary on Corbyn and his inner circle. Having invited the Murdoch-owned news agency in, Seumas Milne is caught accusing party staff of leaking to Downing Street. Viewers witness Corbyn ruling out attacks on David Cameron following Iain Duncan Smith’s resignation from the government.
23 – Britain votes to leave the European Union and stories emerge about how Corbyn, John McDonnell and his team were at best uninterested in the LabourIn campaign and sought to sabotage the contribution of StrongerIn.
24 – Corbyn reveals his insouciance towards Brexit when declaring the morning after the referendum: ‘The British people have made their decision. We must respect that result and Article 50 has to be invoked now so that we negotiate an exit from European Union.’
25 – Hilary Benn is sacked by Corbyn in the middle of the night. Other shadow cabinet members resign in solidarity.
27 – Corbyn leaves the parliamentary Labour party to almost literally demonstrate his overriding commitment to extra-parliamentary politics by addressing a rally outside parliament.
30 – At the launch of the Chakrabarti report a Momentum Black Connexions activist posing as a journalist uses an antisemitic trope to attack a Jewish Labour MP. She walks out and Corbyn, who witnessed the incident, does nothing.
12 – At a #JC4PM event, PCS’ Mark Serwotka says Neil Kinnock was a ‘disgrace’ to Wales. The CWU’s Dave Ward says some Labour MPs are ‘bloody Tories’ and the FBU’s Matt Wrack calls Labour MPs ‘lying dishonest leaders with no values’. At the same event McDonnell calls his colleagues ‘f**king useless’.
13 – Corbyn defies the NEC’s ban on local party meetings by joining by phone a branch meeting in Angela Eagle’s constituency.
4 – Shami Chakrabarti is elevated to the House of Lords, negating Labour’s attack on Cameron’s list of ‘cronies’ and bringing the work of her commission on antisemitism into disrepute.
Richard Angell is director of Progress