Jezza did it, and now it’s our turn

During the recent Labour Party leadership election campaign I was consistent in my support for Liz Kendall. I was also consistent in stating that whoever was successful they would get my full support. I think it is for all of us who want a Labour Government to get behind the leader, and I fully intend to do what I can to see that it is Jeremy Corbyn who resides at 10 Downing Street after the next General Election.

I still believe that Liz Kendall represented our best chance of success come 2020, and I think that we, the Labour party, has chosen to take the most difficult route to success. However, there is no getting away from the huge mandate that Mr Corbyn now enjoys within the party, and we have to translate this into votes; next May provides an interesting test (especially in my ward!)

There is cause for optimism; the huge growth in our membership (which I can attest has seen our numbers more than double in Southend-on-Sea alone) should auger well for the many campaigns ahead. I am looking forward to working with the newest recruits, who are bound to give fresh energy to our campaigning.

The leadership campaign was a mixed affair, in my opinion. It was too long, fought too soon after the May defeat. However, I have mixed views over the number of hustings, which must have been wearying for the four candidates (as well as for the five who contested the deputy leadership), and it must have entailed a lot of repetition. But, with the numbers attending these it clearly demonstrated an appetite amongst activists and interested persons for public debate.

Jeremy had a very good campaign. It demonstrated that social media is having a significant impact, and his brand of pure socialism has certainly gained traction. He was also successful, I believe, because of the tone of his campaign – his occasional apparent amateurism leant him an authenticity that his three opponents just could not match. You knew that he believed in what he was saying, which is a rare commodity in some political circles.

I think his stances on some topics will have to change, evolving into something a little more palatable to the wider electorate. A pragmatist myself, I see nothing wrong in accepting that to achieve success a little compromise is sometimes needed.

As for Liz – well, I have to accept comprehensive rejection. I hope she will have a part to play in future, and she should, when the time is right, re-visit her decision about not serving in a Corbyn-led shadow cabinet. She should be acknowledged for her role in creating the lively debate in the contest, and at least she stood for change. Hers was as radical an alternative as Corbyn’s, and it certainly does no-one any favours to have four identical flavours to select from. She also refused to buckle under pressure, and perhaps she may yet be our first substantive female leader.

Which leads me to the issue of gender. The Labour movement can be extraordinarily conservative at times, and to have no females in any of the really big positions is surely something that has to be addressed at some point.

Here are the recent polls, which show a small bounce for Labour. UKIP are still showing impressive numbers, and the Greens are falling away somewhat. It is earlier days yet, though, and only so much can be read into these numbers.

Lab Con LDem UKIP Grn
25 August 2015 ComRes 28 42 8 9 6
14 September 2015 ICM 32 38 8 13 3
20 September 2015 ComRes 30 42 7 13 3
20 September 2015 YouGov 31 39 6 16 3
20 September 2015 Opinium 32 37 6 14
24 September 2015 Ipsos MORI 34 39 9 7 4
30 September 2015 ComRes 30 39 9 12 4
02 October 2015 YouGov 31 37 7 17
average 31.0 39.1 7.5 12.6 3.8

We have had a good debate, and it looks like Jeremy Corbyn is keen to continue this. I for one look forward to taking part in the many discussions to come. I am sure some heat will be generated, just as I am sure that most will respect alternative outlooks, and the need to agree and work as a team. Divided we stand no chance. We have a long four and a half years in front of us, which will not only see radical changes to public services and welfare, but also see changes to our democracy that are designed to make it tougher for us, Labour, to succeed. If we are to kick the Tories out of national government, as well as ejecting them from local authorities, then we will have to roll our sleeves up and work – all of us, from all wings of our movement.

 

 

 

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We may have to get used to the idea of a Corbyn-led party

Whilst an election conducted using the Alternative Vote system means that being ahead on first preferences is no guarantor of success, there comes a point when that lead is strong enough that it becomes more than possible – it becomes likely. The two recent opinion polls (conducted amongst Labour members) show the following :-

Burnham Cooper Corbyn Kendall
28 July Mirror 20 22.6 42 14
21 July YouGov 26 20 43 11

By any measure this is a commanding lead. However, it is only a poll, conducted on a most unusual electorate.

Nevertheless, there is no getting away from the fact that the campaign that has had the most impact is Jeremy’s. In my, admittedly biased, view the campaign that has the most new ideas belongs to Liz Kendall, but if this polling is at all accurate her campaign is gaining little traction.

I have struggled to envisage a Jeremy victory, but when his poll leads are so great then that has to be considered. Of course, it will always come down to how the second preferences are allocated. Is it likely that Corbyn will get enough second (or even third) preferences? When he is so close on first preferences then this does not seem at all improbable.

I think we may have to get used to the idea of a Jeremy win and a Corbyn-led Labour Party.

What will this look like? I do not think anyone can accuse Jeremy of not being clear on where he stands, although I think he will have to revisit some of his ideas when faced with actually running the party. He will also have to somehow argue that despite years of lacklustre loyalty to the Party, the Party should do as he says (and not as he did). The temptation for some to argue that he has no claim on loyalty should be resisted – not only would this signal anarchy, it would wreck any chances of making advances in the long run-in to 2020.

His campaign has attracted new members, and I hope they will be encouraged to become activists. The left has always been better at marching than door-knocking, and yet if they want Jezza4PM then they will have to embrace the concept of actually engaging (and not lecturing) the electorate.

I also think that those who have stated that they will not serve in a Corbyn administration need to think again. It is not Jeremy who will suffer, it will be Labour – and it will be those who need us as an effective Opposition.
I am not voting for Jeremy Corbyn, but if he wins I will work as hard for him as I would if Liz Kendall wins.

The Facebook leadership contest, the Likes count so far

If the Labour leadership was decided by online presence we might end up with a strange result.

Here are the candidates ranked by Facebook ‘Likes’ for their respective pages.

30,938 Jeremy Corbyn (JeremyCorbyn4Leader)
12,885 Yvette Cooper (YvetteCooperMP)
11,579 Andy Burnham (andy4leader)
3,278 Liz Kendall (LabourLiz)

17,367 Tom Watson (tom.watson.uk)
5,486 Angela Eagle (angela4labour)
4,630 Caroline Flint (CarolineFlintMP)
4,582 Stella Creasy (Stella-Creasy)
2,056 Ben Bradshaw (Ben-Bradshaw)

I have gone for their most popular page, rather than the leadership campaign pages.

Of course, compared to the electorate in the actual election these numbers are quite small. Also, you can like a politician without necessarily being willing to vote for them, and can ‘Like’ more than one of them. However, I am sure those dreaming of a Corbyn/Watson leadership team will be cheered by this.

We need a leader with the broadest appeal

Let’s be honest, anything other than fourth place would be a surprise for Jeremy Corbyn, let alone the wider party. He is getting my fourth spot. This is less for reasons of what he stands for (which is, in my opinion, a rather mixed bag), but because he is the least electable of the four on offer.

It seems that some are convinced that the leadership election somehow writes the 2020 manifesto. It does not – the leader debate is all about who spearheads our 2020 challenge. The leadership election is all about getting the most electable candidate selected.

It is also, should we forget, about who leads HM Opposition. It is about who faces Mr Cameron over the despatch box, who can best hold the Government to account, and who can provide the most credible face to a putative Labour Government.

In many ways what comes out of Liz’s, Yvette’s, Andy’s and Jeremy’s mouth is less important than how it is articulated. We should be looking for the candidate with the broadest appeal. On that criterion alone, Jeremy is fourth.

However, Jeremy has already articulated an important truth – the party needs to become more democratic. Whoever succeeds I hope they will make members more engaged in policy making.

We are picking the glossy jacket cover, and perhaps sketching out a few chapter titles. The contents of the book is what I, and the quarter of a million fellow members of party, will have a hand in writing over the next four years.

We were rejected in 2010 and 2015; those who need a Labour Government on their side cannot afford another rejection in 2020.

Having choice, and being criticised for choosing; some are preparing for rattle propulsion

I am a Tory, I must be – someone on Twitter said so. Daring to choose one of the four Labour leadership contenders that was not the choice of said Tweeter makes me liable to be punished by tweeting “you are no socialist”.

Anyroadup. Yesterday: a day of two debates.

Midday, Osborne versus Benn. I am a big fan of Hilary Benn. I think he is the best speaker in the PLP, a joy to listen to. I could enthuse about his orating the telephone directory. His is always a sober oratory, and able to be economical with words, whilst able to be totally persuasive.

I do not like Osborne’s voice, and apologise if that is too personal. It is less the timbre, than the cocksure lecturing style that he conveys. It is of some comfort that whilst Labour has four good candidates (albeit with reservations about Jeremy Corbyn), the two frontrunners to succeed David Cameron as Tory leader are both unattractive propositions. To be fair, George (or Gideon as some like to call him) did reasonably well at yesterday’s PMQs. However, Benn was masterful, and showed how you can conduct yourself with gravitas, and without resorting to Punch and Judy politics.

Seven pm. The Newsnight debate. Having outed myself as a Kendall fan I was hoping that she was not going to throw into doubt my allegiance. No worries, she was competent enough, although if I am allowed a minor whinge I would work on the body language.

Liz is condemned as the right-wing candidate, a virtual Tory to some – but have they actually listened to her? I do not doubt that I will find myself disagreeing with some of her views, but so far it has been all good.

I thought Jeremy Corbyn showed why his inclusion is so useful. He offered a quite different solution, albeit one inherit from the 1970s. It allowed for genuine comparisons between his standpoint and the other three. I did not agree with too much, although some of his ideas are perfectly sound.

As for Yvette and Andy, Cooper and Burnham. They came across as the continuation candidates, which does not strike me as what is required. However you look at it, we were thumped in 2010 and this year, and something has got to change. Yvette was very statesmanlike, and would make a good leader, whereas Andy seemed incapable of being concise.

Whoever wins will get my support. I just cannot understand those who threaten to leave the party if their chosen candidate does not succeed – how is this democratic? I did not vote for Ed Miliband but was more than happy to work for him, and my not choosing him does not diminish the fact that he is a democratic socialist and more than competent politician. The same for whoever emerges from this competition. If Liz is unsuccessful I will still work damn hard for my community and for Labour. If you want to help the Tories then throw your rattle out of the pram on September 12th when the winner is announced, because they will relish all the division, petulance, and sulking from those incapable of understanding why anyone cannot agree all the time with them.

On last night’s performance I think Liz Kendall came out best, marginally ahead of Yvette Cooper. I would put Andy Burnham some distance ahead of Jeremy Corbyn in third place on the night.

I am going to the Stevenage hustings on Saturday, another chance to hear all four candidates.

Jeremy on the ballot paper

JCJeremy makes it onto the leadership ballot paper – well done, Mr Corbyn. Whilst I will not be voting for him I do think his presence in the debates is important. The broad church needs a broad debate.

Now that Jeremy is on the ballot paper this opens the possibility that he could win. He appeals to those who want purity in their democratic socialism, and his leadership would signal a leftwards shift. However, even Mr Corbyn must understand the need to embrace the widest electoral reach if he wants to see a Labour Government.

I suspect he will finish fourth. His appeal must broadly inhabit the same area as Diane Abbott, who came fifth (of five) in 2010.

There is a fear, articulated by some on the Twittersphere, that the low bar for having a vote in the leadership contest will encourage entryism. This is feared from two quarters; those Tories who want the least electable leader chosen, and those on the far left who want someone who mirrors their views. I expect that some will register as supporters just do cause mischief, but they will be vastly out-numbered by the quarter of a million genuine Labour Party members.

However, I think the killer argument for the inclusion of Mr Corbyn is that Labour has to broaden its appeal. At a tad over three in ten voters attracted in May we were thumped. We have got to persuade more to back us. Whilst I think that this will largely come from the centre ground, there is a significant number of disaffected lefties who have deserted us to. A leadership debate confined to just Liz, Yvette and Andy does little to encourage these people.

I will argue for a vote for Liz, but I am pleased for Jeremy and his supporters. I will listen to his voice, and will doubtless find much to agree with (I am, after all, a member of both the CLPD and Compass). He will also shift the debate somewhat, and a strong showing by him will mean that a socially progressive agenda remains at the heart of Labour policy.