Britain will need an effective opposition

Christian May
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Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn Addresses The TUC Conference
A motion of no confidence in Jeremy Corbyn was passed by Labour party MPs on Tuesday (Source: Getty)

Given the scale of the change that the British people have voted for, and the chaos it has unleashed across European politics and markets, it may seem strange that the number one story in town has been the circular firing squad that currently passes for Her Majesty's Opposition.

Jeremy Corbyn has endured days of high-profile resignations, emotional pleas to quit, torturous media coverage and explosive meetings of his parliamentary party. The reason that Labour's implosion matters so much is because there is a real sense that Britain needs an effective opposition now, more than ever. In the wake of last week's referendum result the government (for we do still have one) is in the early stages of a complete metamorphosis.

A new leader of the Tory party (and, therefore, Prime Minister) will just be the beginning. Once No 10 has a new resident, change will come quickly. A new cabinet will be formed, new ministers appointed and a new alignment of political interests will take shape. Then there's the epic challenge of reconfiguring Whitehall and the apparatus of government to oversee the likely triggering of Article 50 and the subsequent negotiations of the terms of Britain's exit from the EU.

Read more: It’s the beginning of the end – either of Jeremy Corbyn or the Labour Party

As if this upheaval wasn't enough, the machinery of government will soon have to turn towards establishing new trade deals and new diplomatic priorities. The captain of this bold new venture, Cameron's successor, will face an opposition party the likes of which we cannot yet quite picture.

Comrade Corbyn has vowed to fight any challenger for his crown, and given the current makeup of his party's membership it's more than possible that he'll be returned. Faced with such an outcome, people not usually given to hysteria are now talking about Labour splitting in two: leaving a core of hard-left Corbyn supporters sitting on the green benches alongside a more mainstream incarnation of the party.

Whatever form of official opposition emerges, they will need to be on the ball as a new kind of government takes shape and starts recalibrating the state of the nation. It’s vital that a political force emerges capable of holding to account a government that, itself, needs to be liberal in instinct, clear in direction and internationalist in outlook.

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