I’m not exactly sure of the polling but I’d suspect that there is a majority of people who would quite like there not to be another Independence referendum around the corner. Given this, it is somewhat strange to see Labour recreate last years campaign in the form of their own leadership election.
We have the candidates looking to preserve the status quo (ie the cozy right wing consensus at Westminster), check. The upstart outsider, check. The scare stories, check. The escalation of the scare stories, check. The scare stories becoming shrill and nonsensical, check. Gordon Brown, check. The Daily Record, ch… no wait, there’s always something that doesn’t quite fit.
Last time I blogged about the Labour leadership contest, it had just started and Burnham was still the bookies favourite. We had just had the Newsnight leaders hustings, where we had the harbinger of Burnham tanking, and both Cooper and Kendall treading water against a sensible but ‘suspend disbelief’ credible Jeremy Corbyn. Since then, Burnham and Cooper are still in the race, Liz Kendall seems to have disappeared completely while Corbyn if the polls are to be believed (yep, I know) is striding towards victory.
If this does happen, the reasons are fairly obvious. A party that has had enough of it’s leaders buying the economic narrative of their chef opponent’s will have gone for the candidate that least articulates Osborne’s Scorched Earth as the only way. As for the attacks on Corbyn being unelectable, maybe he is, but that doesn’t mean that Burnham, Cooper and Kendall are any more electable. Indeed, if Corbyn is elected as Labour leader it will be an admonishment of the Progress wingers by the Labour rank and file – if you speak for the country then why have you provided us with weak, vacillating, vague and unelectable politicians to choose as candidates.
The various interjections from Party “grandees” have been Cameron-esque in the unintentional boosts that have been given to Corbyn. One suspects that the same result will come from Blair’s recent piece – especially as Blair seems to have a blind spot regarding the squeeze from the left that has cost his party votes. The main reason that Blair’s stock is not high among the left can be found in the comparison with the other PM to have won three elections in a row. Where Thatcher won and took the country rightwards, Blair won and did not attempt to take the country leftwards – preferring to keep the country in it’s centre right small c conservative mindset. Wasted opportunities…
There are two other things in Corbyn’s favour. Firstly there is his readiness to speak the apparently unsayable. For too long people with left of centre values and ideals have been driven to the sidelines, firstly by a media only too happy to brand socialists as ‘loonies’ and then by a party hierarchy only too happy to pander to those stereotypes. Secondly, Corbyn does have a plan, a series of alternative policies, policies which pay no relevance to the New Labour/Conservative convergence in economic policy. It comes back to one of Labour’s failures in May – they simply did not provide a viable alternative to Osborne-omics, Austerity and all that. Milliband did try and failed to ride the two diverging horses that is the current Labour party with his curious mix of left wing market interventionist policies and acceptance of Osborne-omics. His reward was a whispering campaign and the treat of a revolt from the Blairistas virtually as soon as the BBC/ITV/Sky News exit poll was released. Milliband’s successor however is already guaranteed to be less successful if the sound of toys being thrown out of prams is anything to go by.
Whether Corbyn himself is electable is a mute point in itself. I think he would have to work very hard to convince an electorate which gets its news from a still anti-socialist media (pro-Indy supporters who complained about anti –Independence bias in the media seem to have forgotten the 1980’s when the press were en mass anti Labour. The S*n being the very definition of pro-Thatcher bias. Everything the BBC quite resolutely was not). The circumstances against Corbyn becoming PM are even more stacked against him than they would be against say Liz Kendall, and that’s before we talk about his policies (which would quite possibly be his strongest point). Those ideas and debates, which Labour would need to have with the country and it’s own members, would be obscured by a hostile media that would do everything to egg on the Progress Groupers. The wing of the party that will be even more desperate for Corbyn to fail than they were for Ed Milliband to fail.
We’ve already seen Blair speak of Corbyn supporters as being in need of heart transplants and his policies likened to “Alice in Wonderland politics” as well as the various torrents of abuse rained down on Corbynistas by Blair and his supporters. Maybe there are armies of Cybernat style keyboard warriors trolling members of the Progress wing of Labour, from the view of the air war there is only one side loosing it. A Corbyn win and no bookie in the land would take a bet on Labour splitting, with the Progress group favorites to throw their collective toys out of the pram.
While the Progress wingers are busily going about their collective temper tantrums, perhaps they should spare a thought as to why not one of their candidates has the talent and wherewithal to unite the Labour party without recourse to a ‘stairheid rammy’ (© Bernard Ponsonby). Before the campaign, I’d have thought that Yvette Cooper would have had a decent chance of winning. More so given that the mandarins and civil servants in Whitehall thought very highly of her. Instead, she has tried to out Kendall Liz Kendall and not really sought to entice left wing voters beyond the Project Fear-esque scare stories. At least Burnham has tried to adopt a bid tent approach to politics by not ruling out shadow cabinet positions for either Corbyn or Ed Milliband, even though his campaign hasn’t been very good.
At the moment, there is only one candidate with ideas and policies. That person is the favorite and has spooked the Labour establishment so much that they now look guilty of attempting to gerrymander the Labour leadership election. Whether Corbyn wins or not, Labour has somehow found itself in an even bigger hole than it was in on the morning of 8 May. Labour is in dire need of a figure that can gain the support from all sides of their party, and on the current showing none of the candidates are showing the crucial ability to square the rapidly diverging priorities of middle England and the Scottish central belt.