What will Jeremy Corbyn do next and how will he be remembered?
Labour leader bows out at PMQs as he began – on opposition benches
Jeremy Corbyn attended his final Prime Minister’s Questions as the leader of the opposition yesterday in highly unusual circumstances as the UK remains in the grip of the coronavirus outbreak.
“The chamber was sparsely populated as MPs sat apart, and there was a changeover half way through as one set of backbenchers was replaced by another… but the choreography was the least of it,” says the BBC.
“Political sniping was almost totally absent, and where critical points about the government’s crisis-handling were made, they were made and responded to constructively.”
The Labour leader won his seat for the tenth time at the general election in December, but it was a disastrous showing overall for his party, prompting him to stand down after four and a half years in the job.
So what’s next for the MP for Islington North?
At his final PMQs, Corbyn vowed to continue “demanding justice for the people of this country – and indeed the rest of the world”, says Labour List.
He called on the British people to come together at this difficult time. “At a time of crisis no-one is an island. No-one is self-made.”
He added: “At times like this, Mr Speaker, we have to recognise the value of each other and the strength of a society that cares for each other and cares for all.”
After the Easter recess, it is assumed that Corbyn will return to the House of Commons backbenches. The new Labour leader will be announced on 4 April.
Asked what position he would take in a new Shadow Cabinet, Corbyn told the Islington Gazette in February: “I think foreign policy actually because I have spent my life on human rights justice and environmental justice issues. But that’s not up to me, that’s up to the next leader. I will be working on human rights, environmental and social justice whatever position I hold or don’t hold.”
A document called “Jeremy’s Forward Look Engagement Strategy”, leaked to The Sunday Times in January, showed that he planned to set up a new organisation called For The Few Foundation, its name taken from the 2017 election slogan: “For the many, not the few.” However, a source close to Corbyn said the plans were suggestions rather than agreed events.
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What is his legacy as Labour Party leader?
Memorable moments during his leadership have included the “Ohhh, Jeremy Cor-byn” chant, to Seven Nation Army by the White Stripes, which began in summer 2017; the lingering charge of anti-Semitism, which began in 2016 and never really went away; his on-the-fence stance on Brexit; and calls for renationalision of utilities and transport, with free broadband for all.
“Written off as a leftie beardie weirdie who could not win an election he proved us all wrong, by not winning the two,” wrote Matt Chorley in The Times. But Corbyn nevertheless managed to boost Labour membership to record levels.
“As for his legacy,” said Tom Harris in The Telegraph, “there are competing contenders: Labour’s renewed commitment to public ownership, Brexit, a party membership of more than half a million.
“But his defining legacy will surely be the fact that at PMQs today he was still standing on the opposition side, with his opponent, the prime minister, enjoying an 80-seat Commons majority and 50 per cent support in recent polls.”