One of the most common, and most irritating, conversations you can have with a Smithite goes something like this:

“I think we should get rid of Corbyn as Party Leader”

“I’m sure you do, but he has a massive mandate to lead the Party from hundreds of thousands of members”

“It’s not the Party Members that we should be thinking of but the wider electorate!” or “We won’t win an election with 500,000 votes!””

Let’s deconstruct this:

Firstly, of course, this is a Party Election, not a General Election and we are choosing a Party Leader. We are not choosing a government but a leader that Party Members think is best suited to make the case for their values to the electorate.

So, no, in that situation it can only be the decision of the members that constitutes the Leader’s mandate. Unless of course the Smithites think that the entire country should choose the Labour leader and we hold a sort of weird Quasi-Presidential election to facilitate that?

It goes deeper than that, however. When Corbyn’s opponents make this argument they simply expose the colossal arrogance and sense of entitlement of the party establishment. All they are really saying is “I think my personal opinion trumps that of all other members”. They might well think that another candidate is best suited to promote their values to the electorate. Other members think differently — a majority of members at the moment. Does the person making this argument think we should just abandon leadership elections and let him personally choose the leader instead? Or perhaps we should let MORI choose the Party Leader for us by publishing a mysteriously constituted poll? Of course Corbyn’s opponents are free to quote polling evidence, or indeed conversations their Mother-in-Law’s second cousin has had on the doorstep while canvassing. What they are not free to do is personally override Corbyn’s leadership mandate on the basis of this evidence.

Logically, in fact, the statements “Corbyn has a mandate from members to lead the party” and “Corbyn is unpopular with voters” do not follow on from each other. The person saying it has started with one topic (the legitimacy of Corbyn’s mandate) and then aimlessly drifted off into quite another (can we win an election under Corbyn?) It is not the place to rehash that second argument here. Suffice it to say that the fact one person thinks Corbyn is unelectable does not trump the equally valid opinion of hundreds of thousands of other members.

One incidental point to finish up with:

The support and enthusiasm of members for Corbyn does of course have some bearing on electability. All these new members provide funds and campaign assistance at election time, talk to their friends, colleagues and neighbours and provide positive stories in the media that make Corbyn and Labour look popular. Existing members who have been enthused by Corbyn’s return to Labour values will also make extra donations and get involved in party business with increased enthusiasm. They will be able to make the party’s case on the doorstep more effectively because they now have more belief in what they are saying. The party establishment actually knows this very well and make themselves look thoroughly ridiculous and unpleasantly elitist by pretending to dismiss the grassroots renaissance.