Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Labour leadership race, pt. 2

Further to a few posts ago...

...and to be my surprise, Jerermy Corbyn succeeded in getting his 35 nominations (almost literally at the last minute), so will join Andy Burnham (odds 4/6), Liz Kendall (5/2) and Yvette Cooper (7/2) in the leadership race, albeit as rank outsider (20/1 on Ladbrokes when I checked last night). He's already acknowledged that he doesn't expect all his nominees to vote for him (he says some have already told him!) but wanted someone different in the race, which is some sort of positive sign.

It seems to be the prevalent view amongst both right and left that a Labour Party with Corbyn as leader would be electoral suicide. "No," they say, "you need someone who will blah blah blah" (much of which really means "you need someone more right-wing".

"Corbyn is hard left!" they cry. Really? He supports renationalising the railways and other previously sold-off areas of the public sector (very popular with the electorate), opposes the benefits cap (as it ignores the stupidly soaring rents in certain areas of the country and treats all cases as the same), opposes the renewal of Trident (as do the majority of the public), He resolutely refuses to pander to that small-minded sector of his party who were swayed away by UKIP at the last election, so opposes the draconian curbs on immigration that certain others (most Tories, some of Labour) are currently espousing. He (broadly) advocates rebalancing the economy through investment and GDP growth, rather than cutting state spending. He would like to see a redistribution of wealth from the very rich to the very poor. He voted against the Iraq war. I don't see any "hard left" policies there.

My point is that now that Corbyn is in the race, at least there can be some sort of meaningful debate prior to the leadership election itself. Without him, the other three would really just be arguing about nuance (except perhaps Liz Kendall, who comes across as a bit flightly to me and could be prone to wild swings of opinion).

Perhaps - as I've mused in earlier ramblings - it's me that's hopelessly out of touch. Maybe the politics of this country have shifted so far to the right that what I regard as sensible, fair, centre-left policies are now seen as rampaging Marxism. The perception by much of the media of Andy Burnham as left-wing speaks volumes I suppose. And in any case, he's still trying to wriggle his way out of his responsibility for the PFI deals set up when he was Health Secretary (I'm sure we'll hear more about that later). I don't see him as left-wing, Cooper and Kendall even less so.

I think there's been this collective buying-into the idea that government spending is bad, so cuts are inevitable, whereas I think there are other ways. At least now we'll get to hear the other side of that argument as well as the other three arguing amongst themselves about how big the spending cuts should be.

Probably the consensus is right, a Labour Party with Jeremy Corbyn as leader would be unelectable, but a lot can happen in five years. Also, since the rules of the leadership contest changed (no block vote for the unions) to one member one vote, the power of normal members is surely increased enormously? I only need to pay £3 to become a voting member for the Labour Party...I might just do that, as I would definitely vote for a Labour Party that had Jeremy Corbyn as leader, rather than fudging about with Lib Dems and Greens.

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