"Liz Kendall is to Labour as Ken Clarke was to the Tories 1997-2005." Discuss.
— Stephen Bush (@stephenkb) July 1, 2015
For EU supporter read “Blairite” or “CON-lite”
As I was returning from holiday a couple of days ago the News Statesman’s, Stephen Bush posted the above Tweet which I’ve been pondering over ever since – for there might be a grain of truth in it.
After the appalling Tory defeat by Tony Blair in 1997 the Tories had a couple of chances when they could have chosen Ken Clarke as their leader but on each occasion he was just too much. His undiluted support for Britain in the EU was never going to resonate in a party that had been torn asunder by the issue in the mid-1990s. Yet I’d argue that he would have done far better job leading his party against Blair in the 1997-2001 and 2001-2005 periods than any of the three who were carrying the blue flag over that nine years.
Many found the big Clarke personality very appealing and CON members in a YouGov poll in September 2005 had him some way ahead of both David Davis and one David Cameron. This, as we know, was not to be.
Bush’s comparison with Liz Kendall has quite a lot of merit although she has far less name recognition than Clarke had. She’s been dismissed by her opponents as the “Blairite” candidate – the one who wants to bring in Tory policies. Yet as a recent survey of CON councillors showed she is the one who is most highly rated by the party’s main opponents.
My view is that LAB might just possibly fare better under her than any of the other three. More than anything she is the change candidate and, who knows, could reach voters that Burnham, Corbyn and Cooper could not.
After the devastation on May 7th Labour needs to signal a fresh direction. Electing Kendal would certainly do that.