Don Brind on what could happen
Always look on the bright side of life. Thatâ€™s me. So, hereâ€™s my reason for saying Jeremy Corbyn is the best choice for Labour leader now. Because heâ€™s the most easily dumpable in two or three years time. That fits in with my argument in a previous PB post that Labour will need to be ruthless in getting a new leader if they trail in the polls after the Tories elect their new leader â€“ assuming David Cameron is true to his word and steps down before the next election.
There is, of course, a BUT coming. I like Jeremy and I admire his internationalism and his campaigning for human rights around the world. But I wonâ€™t be voting for him.
Before I get there, though, itâ€™s worth pointing out that there is strong intellectual support for Corbynâ€™s anti-austerity line. A good example is example is Oxford professor of economics Simon Wren-Lewis in the New Statesman last month arguing â€œThere is no economic reason for Osborneâ€™s surplus plan. Itâ€™s time Labour stopped playing catch-up.â€ . Whoever wins the leadership contest will need to confront Osborne on the economy, as well as on welfare, more effectively than was done by Ed Miliband and Ed Balls.
A word, too, in defence of those Labour MPs who nominated Corbyn while making it clear they wouldnâ€™t vote for him. The usually thoughtful John McTernan labelled their behaviour â€œmoronicâ€. I disagree. Elections are intrinsically divisive affairs. People need to be brought together afterwards but that happens more easily if they feel their views were properly aired. The legitimacy of the election would have been in doubt if Corbyn had not been in the contest.
My complaint against Labour MPs is that while they came up with special measures to help Corbyn there was no such comradely courtesy for Mary Creagh in the leadership and Rushanara Ali in the deputy leadership elections. Both have interesting things to say that would have added to the quality of the debate. Corbyn is admired for â€œstraight talkingâ€ says Maya Goodfellow in Labour List . Well, Creagh does that too, as she shows in a trenchant commentary in the New Statesman.
Now we get to the Why Not Jeremy?
First I am alarmed by his flirtation with the idea of voting No in the EU referendum. Yes, what has happened to Greece has been pretty awful. The answer is more solidarity not less.
Second, I donâ€™t think he wants the job. He came into politics to speak up for people. He has never show any interest in holding power — ie controlling peopleâ€™s lives — unlike Michael Foot with whom he has been compared. Foot was a key figure in the Wilson/ Callaghan governments of the late 70s before being elected leader in 1980. He was the candidate thought best able to unite the party. He also embarked on party reforms which gathered pace under his successor Neil Kinnock.
I discount one of the jibes being aimed against Corbyn â€“ that he would be following in the footsteps of Tory Lord Palmerson who, in 1865, was the last person to become Prime Minster for the first time at the age of 70. Hilary Clinton is likely to see off that ageist argument.
That said, I donâ€™t think voters would see him as a potential Prime Minister. What that means is that Labour policies and arguments, however good they are donâ€™t get a hearing. And that makes it more likely we will get another majority Tory government.
For me, winning power is the key task for a party leader, a that view apparently puts me in a minority within the party. The YouGov poll for the Times suggested Corbyn could win. It also showed that when respondents were asked to pick the top qualities needed by a leader â€œUnderstanding what it takes to win an electionâ€ came in fifth with just 27%.
I hope the poll will make party colleagues remember how you felt when you saw the exit poll at 10 oâ€™clock on May 7th and look at the smirk on George Osborneâ€™s face. The best candidate is the one who can deprive the Tories of power in 2020. Iâ€™m still making my mind up — from a shortlist of three.
Don Brind writes a weekly column on PB