In the wake of the Paris attacks, security has risen to the top of the political agenda. As the world brimmed with anger and calculated how best to eradicate the Isis threat, Jeremy Corbyn decided it was the right moment to appoint Ken Livingstone to co-chair the Labour Party’s defence review.
Whatever Livingstone’s qualities and experience in other areas, he has zero defence experience and his past ties to CND and support for a United Ireland will cause alarm among many, not least shadow defence secretary Maria Eagle, who learnt of his appointment via Twitter.
Shadow ministers’ discontent has been rumbling below the surface til now – this could blow it wide open. Certain matters are hygiene factors for a political leader – economic competence, personal leadership qualities, and soundness on defence and security.
Labour lost the last election because it failed the first two of those tests. With this appointment, on top of Corbyn’s reaction to Paris, they might now fail on all three.
Jon McLeod, chairman of UK corporate, financial and public affairs at Weber Shandwick, says No
No, because Livingstone is but one member of the Party. He will have to work with the pro-Trident Maria Eagle to forge some kind of compromise. There’s no doubt that he is going to end up looking a bit silly, whether he does a deal with Eagle or simply imposes the unilateralist instincts he harbours, in common with Jeremy Corbyn.
This will be a naked attempt by the “new” left to reshape the Party in its image. But ultimately, the Labour Party is stronger than the 1980s revolutionaries that have seized power on the back of the £3 “slacktivist” members who voted them in.
There are enough MPs and members who appreciate, particularly in light of recent events, the importance of a party which has a robust and credible policy to keep the nation safe. In time, perhaps, the Labour Party will revert to its moderate instincts and advocate strong defence policies and the protection of defence workers’ jobs.