It all springs from what looks like a massive problem. Corbyn has been #Labour’s most rebellious MP, voting against his party more than 500 times. That would make it practically impossible for him to demand loyalty from the parliamentary Labour party, especially since fewer than the 36 who nominated him actually support him, with Margaret Beckett even describing herself as a moron for lending him her votes. Corbyn would be a contemptible hypocrite if he were to try to crack the whip that he himself so gleefully defied.
The only way out of this is to perform some political judo, harnessing the force of his biggest disadvantage in his own favour. This he can do quite easily by announcing that under his leadership, there will be no whip. Necessity will be the murderer of convention.
Rather conveniently, this would not just be an expedient move but a necessary and principled one. The whip has had its day. The public is sick of party-line-toeing politicians and want independent people answerable to constituents, not apparatchiks. That is precisely why Corbyn is so popular in the first place. He is seen as his own man, not an identikit career politician trying to climb the greasy pole.
The whip is part of the machinery of an outdated party #politics that can no longer galvanise voters. It evolved in the 18th century, with the office of the chief whip formally coming into existence in the early 19th, and should be consigned to this era when deference and obedience were considered virtues. It is profoundly undemocratic. MPs are elected to represent their constituents. They cannot do this if, once in parliament, they instead have to bow down in front of their party’s leadership.
If, as expected, Jeremy Corbyn wins the Labour leadership election, he will immediately have a historic opportunity to change political culture for the better, for good. What’s more, it’s an opportunity he will have no choice but to take.