At the end of a week that saw much Labour Party embarrassment over the welfare vote, it’s been fascinating reading some of the newspaper comment regarding the Labour leadership contest (which is still 7 weeks away!).Some 55,000 new people have signed up to Labour since its crushing election defeat in May. A third of them are under 30 and their most common age is 18. They seem to be flocking to Jeremy Corbyn.
These are just a few things I’ve picked up during the course of the past couple of days regarding Jeremy Corbyn and the contest:
The 'left-wing' policies of Jeremy Corbyn the public actually agrees with (The Independent: 25 July 2015):
1. The public overwhelmingly backs renationalising the railways
2. There's a public appetite for a 75% top rate of tax on incomes over £1m
3. Two thirds of Brits want to see an international convention on banning nuclear weapons
4. Six out of ten people want to see rents controls on landlords
5. The public support a mandatory living wage
6. Jeremy Corbyn wants to cut tuition fees and so does the public
7. The public were on the same side as Jeremy Corbyn in Iraq War debate
8. The public were also in sync with Corbyn when it came to bombing SyriaAndrew Grice, The Independent (24 July): “If Labour members want to be part of a pressure group, railing impotently against the nasty Tories for the next 20 years, they should vote for Mr Corbyn. If they want to change the country, they should back someone else.”
Robin Lustig, Huffington Post (24 July 2015): “Here's what I think Labour party members want: a party that speaks up for those who have least and need most; that develops policies to distribute the nation's wealth more fairly; and that believes everyone deserves an equal chance to make the most of what life offers... And here's the central dilemma: for reasons that many party activists struggle to comprehend, not enough voters seem to agree with them (a) that these are laudable objectives, or (b) that voting for the Labour party is the best way to achieve them... There's an uncomfortable, but unavoidable, truth in all democracies: however high-minded your goals, you won't get a chance even to try to reach them unless you win an election. So all those people you want to help will remain unhelped - until and unless you can persuade enough people to vote for you…
After two successive election failures, Labour is now in deep mourning. That's why it's going through the five classic stages of grief: denial… anger… bargaining… depression… and finally comes acceptance. And that's when it'll be time to elect a new leader. Unfortunately, the timetable says different, so the new leader will be elected less than mid-way through the grieving process. It's like asking someone who's just been bereaved to choose a new partner within a week of the funeral…”
Charlotte Church’s Blog (24 July): “The inverse of Nigel Farage, he (Corbyn) appears to be a cool-headed, honest, considerate man, one of the few modern politicians who doesn't seem to have been trained in neuro-linguistic programming, unconflicted in his political views, and abstemious in his daily life. He is one of the only politicians of note that seems to truly recognise the dire inequality that exists in this country today and actually have a problem with it. There is something inherently virtuous about him, and that is a quality that can rally the support of a lot of people, and most importantly, a lot of young people… What I can say is that for the first time in my adult life there is a politician from a mainstream party who shares my views and those of most people I know, and also has a chance of actually doing something to create a shift in the paradigm, from corporate puppetry to conscientious societal representation… The hysteria that has rendered certain members of the Labour party catatonic, and has the right wing press rubbing its hands together in glee, is ultimately based on nonsense. The fact is that this election is not for the position of king of kings but for the leader of a party of equals. No matter how far left Jeremy Corbyn is, if he is voted leader he will have to represent a party that is jam packed with shy Tories and Blairites. He would be dragged towards the centre ground anyway. But he would have galvanised the support of many disparate factions of society, who didn't vote in the general election, or who voted Ukip, or maybe even some of those who voted Tory”.
Editorial, Guardian (25 July): “Politics moves in cycles and some are more vicious than others. A deadly one is the spiral into irrelevance after defeat. The losing side is more interesting to its core voters than to the mainstream of the electorate, which moves on…
All candidates must turn their attention to more forward-looking alternatives. The challenge for Mr Corbyn’s rivals is to match his crusading passion while leading the debate back to a discussion of the country Labour would aspire to lead in 2020. In that sense the defenders and critics of New Labour are both right. The party needs a transition equal in scale to its 1990s journey from opposition but very different in content. If it continues down the current path of retrospection and introspection, Labour will face not just defeat but obsolescence…”
Jonathan Freedland, Guardian (25 July): “What’s needed instead, one enthusiast for Corbyn told me, is “someone who can articulate what you feel”. The key is “to have someone who represents what you believe in. Why does it matter whether other people believe it or not?... All this has consequences for those who would like to halt Corbyn’s march to the leadership. It means they have to find a different way to talk to those drawn to the rebel backbencher. Sounding like the grownups lecturing the kids won’t do it. Hurling insults won’t help either. Nor will talk of electability, if what’s at play here is a matter of identity. They’d be talking at cross purposes. Instead, Labour’s pragmatists will somehow have to match the excitement that’s been unleashed. The prospect of Labour’s first female leader could be a starting point. Having the chance to oust the Tories before today’s 20-year-olds turn 40 might be another. But ultimately those unwilling to face a lifetime of opposition will have to persuade their fellow party members that an identity built on the purity of impotence is not much of an identity at all”.
James Walsh, Guardian (24 July): “Why are Labour voters turning towards Jeremy Corbyn? Quotes from some of the 2,500 replies sent to the Guardian on the leadership contest… these are some of the views from people who plan to vote for Corbyn:
‘If it makes Labour less likely to win then so be it’
‘He’s no messiah. But he’s perhaps the start of a debate we need’
‘I do not believe that Miliband dragged the party as far left as many would have us believe’
‘Labour has just decisively lost an election trying to copy the Conservatives’
‘Labour have become like desperate sales people who will say anything’”.
Clearly, the Tories are really enjoying the leadership contest. No doubt, they would love Corbyn to win… they’ll be able to re-use all their “Red Ed” jibes and a few more besides (although I suspect that Corbyn, if elected leader, would surprise them with the tenacity of his arguments) and, on current form, they will have absolutely no worries regarding the other candidates – who haven’t exactly shone thus far. I think this week’s poll suggesting that Corbyn is now the clear favourite to be elected leader (but, after the general election, who could possibly believe the polls?) will be a real wake-up call for Kendall, Cooper and Burnham. Thus far, the other candidates seem to have had very lack lustre (and rather mixed) messages for the Labour Party electorate… they seem hell bent on being all things to all people - trying not to offend potential supporters, but not actually appearing to have any clear vision (or passion or understanding) for either the party or the country.They’ve got seven weeks to turn things around… and I’m not at all certain that they will.