Clive Lewis can be Labour’s future if he plays his cards right

Clive Lewis can be Labour’s future if he plays his cards right


The Shadow Defence Secretary is one to watch after a good conference says Keiran Pedley.

On this week’s PB/Polling Matters podcast I was joined by Leo Barasi and Rob Vance to discuss Labour’s future. You can find the episode below. After a thumping re-election victory Jeremy Corbyn looks here to stay and we discussed where Labour goes from here. Emotions are strong on all sides but clearly some form of accommodation between the leadership and Labour MPs will need to be made so that the party can start looking outwards. How that works in practice remains to be seen.

What is clear is that to all intents and purposes this is a new Labour Party. An ‘exit poll’ conducted by Ian Warren of Election Data via YouGov showed this clearly. Owen Smith won 2:1 among those that had been members at the last General Election but Jeremy Corbyn won 83% of those joining since he became leader. Labour’s challenge now is to harness this new energy in the party in a positive way whilst uniting the party and gaining more support in the country. This will be difficult given Corbyn’s terrible personal poll ratings versus Theresa May butit is the position the party finds itself in.

Elsewhere, one person that had a very good conference is Clive Lewis. The Norwich South MP hit the headlines last week with his apparent furious reaction to having his speech on Trident edited via autocue at the last moment. He has since been attacked at an anti-Tory rally in Birmingham for being disloyal to Jeremy Corbyn. This is clearly ludicrous given that Clive Lewis has done more to get Corbyn elected as leader and keep him there than most although Lewis seems to be taking it well.

He is wise to be relaxed by such criticism. Labour’s future belongs to those that can be seen as the ‘acceptable face of Corbynism’. In loyally serving Corbyn whilst showing a greater degree of pragmatism than his leader (especially on Trident) you get the impression that Lewis could be that face. A little distance from Corbyn is no bad thing for his long term prospects. It is worth remembering that Lewis does not possess the baggage of Corbyn and McDonnell and his service in Afghanistan is of obvious credit to him. He is also well connected in the union movement and a much better media performer than Corbyn.

Leadership material? He is the current 8/1 favourite with Ladbrokes to be the next Labour leader. I can understand the appeal of that bet but I am not so sure he will be the next one. When the day comes that Corbyn goes I can see there being a fair amount of pressure for Labour’s next leader to be a woman. Right now Emily Thornberry (33/1) and Lisa Nandy (who I backed at 25/1 but is now at 20/1) are good bets. Though it isn’t obvious if either wants it.

But Lewis is only 45. He can be the leader after the next one. He clearly has a big future. There is a long way to go of course but he is certainly one to watch. Many will look to the Umunna’s and Khan’s for Labour’s next PM but Lewis can’t be counted out either. It will be fascinating to see how his career develops in the next few years. However, even if he never makes leader, I expect him to be a major figure in Labour’s future. The main thing he has to worry about is keeping his seat.

You can listen to the latest PB/Polling Matters podcast below.

Keiran Pedley tweets and politics and public opinion at @keiranpedley

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