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Who are Jeremy Corbyn's outriders?

Jeremy Corbyn may have a Shadow Cabinet and a full frontbench team, but the Labour leader doesn t have many genuine outriders even amongst those he has given jobs to. Most frontbenchers seem rather refreshed by how happy he is for them to have open discussions at meetings: yesterday s Shadow Cabinet meeting, for instance, was quite discursive and friendly, which was quite different to its atmosphere in the Miliband years. But most of those frontbenchers have agreed to serve because they believe it is the best thing for the Labour party, not because they want to help Corbyn. Every leader needs a group of outriders around them, both frontbenchers and backbenchers, who are prepared to defend them, who see the world as they do, and who will go out and face the broadcasters when something has gone wrong. So far, the most vocal Corbynites are the Islington MP s close friend John McDonnell, his former researcher and now MP for Lancaster and Fleetwood Cat Smith, and Clive Lewis, who is now on Labour s frontbench after just five months in Parliament.

Lewis has given an interview to the House magazine[1] in which he defends Corbyn s decision not to sing the National Anthem last week, and sets out what he sees as his leader s appeal:

Who Are Jeremy Corbyn's Outriders?

We don t want to spin. We don t want the kind of approach that New Labour took dealing with the media. Sometimes the relationship was not one that was particularly healthy for democracy. Jeremy is very different to former leaders. He s genuine. I think that came across in PMQs for the first time for many people, and that s a big contrast to David Cameron. I m not saying he s Teflon, but I think people will say actually this guy is straight talking .

But at the same time we need to also understand you ve got to frame your message. Jeremy is going to have to make a transition very quickly from being a backbencher, where he had a kind of modus operandi, to being leader of the Labour party and being under constant scrutiny. That will have to develop and change, without changing the kind of USP of what Jeremy represents.

MPs like Lewis are going to become more and more valuable to Corbyn in the months ahead. Shadow Cabinet members at the moment want to make things work because of Corbyn s huge mandate, and are also quite cheered by the novelty of being able to say what they think, not just in private meetings but in broadcasts too. But that novelty will wear off, and they will yearn for a cohesive message. They will also find colleagues who have retreated to the backbenches are agitating for a change at some point: those who believe Corbyn can never win an election want to give him enough time to have respected his mandate, but not enough time for him to damage their party so much that no leader can get it back into shape for 2020. And they have already started by offering their own take on Labour and Corbyn, while Lewis offers a Corbynite perspective. This will both give us an insight into the leader himself, and give Corbyn some support when things start to get rocky.

Tags: Clive Lewis, Jeremy Corbyn, Labour, UK politics[2][3][4][5]


  1. ^ given an interview to the House magazine (
  2. ^ Clive Lewis (
  3. ^ Jeremy Corbyn (
  4. ^ Labour (
  5. ^ UK politics (

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