Corbyn: Winning the election but losing the argument?

Corbyn: Winning the election but losing the argument?


Don Brind says the leader of the Opposition has to be seen as a potential PM

I’ve cast my vote and I’m pretty sure I’m backing a loser. I’m also fairly certain that we are winning the argument.By we I mean Paul Flynn and me (and a few others) who don’t believe Jeremy Corbyn is a credible Labour leader because he is unelectable as Prime Minister.

The few others, of course, include Tony Blair, David Blunkett, Gordon Brown Alistair Campbell, Alan Johnson, , Neil Kinnock David Miliband and. Their warnings have been dismissed with a “they would say that, wouldn’t they?” by Team Corbyn.

Much harder to dismiss Paul Flynn, who gets my “Best Blog of the Week” award. Corbyn “is my closest friend among the candidates,” he says. “On all the key issues of war and environment in the Commons, we both always speak and vote on the same side.”
So why, he asks rhetorically, “am I not voting for him for leader? It’s because Labour is a national political party, not a pressure group. It’s futile being ideologically perfect but politically impotent. We can change the leader: we cannot change the electorate.

“There were small parties in the General Election who campaigned on the green and radical policies that Jeremy and I espouse. Their support was minute. Some voters backed us both Jeremy and I for our left of centre views. Most voted for our Labour Party ticket. It’s a myth that there is an untapped reservoir of radical votes.”

The views the veteran MP for Newport West got nothing like the attention given to the former MP for Kirkcaldy and Cowdenbeath. Without mentioning the C-word former Prime Minister Gordon Brown told a meeting in London that Labour must be “credible, radical, sustainable and electable to help people out of poverty” and that anger was not enough. Brown took on one of the key parts of Corbyn’s appeal – his long standing internationalism. A man who did Voluntary Service Overseas in his youth and is married to a Fairtrade coffee trader is attractive to not just the young.

But Brown is evidently affronted by what he sees as Corbyn’s dilettante approach to international affairs. His own passionate internationalism blazes out from the joint campaigning website with his wife Sarah

It says Brown is a “dedicated to providing international leadership at institutions which are trying to help us to make sense of our globalised world, ”. Brown, a UN Special Envoy for Global Education and chair of the World Economic Forum’s Global Strategic Infrastructure Initiative, is seeking “the best ways to fund, deliver and manage the essential services our new world needs. He believes that the future is never fixed, and wants to show how we can all play our part in promoting and managing change in ways that make the world a better place for all our children.”

Corbyn puts all that in jeopardy. “Don’t tell me that we can do much for the poor of the world if the alliances we favour most are with Hezbollah, Hamas, Chávez’s successor in Venezuela and Putin’s totalitarian Russia, ” Brown told his London audience.

But my contention that Corbyn is losing the argument is based not on his policies but on his failure to show that he wants to be Prime Minister and clearly hasn’t the faintest idea what he would do with the job. In a New Statesman interview he was asked by editor Jason Cowley whether he would fight the 2020 general election.

“Well, let’s take one thing at a time. We haven’t been elected yet. We might not be. But I hope the party would want to hold together and I’m sure it would. I hope the party would recognise that the most democratic election we have held has produced an important result and has mobilised more importantly a very large number of people. I’ve never seen so many people at Labour Party meetings”

If any of the other contenders had come up with such an evasive response they would have been derided as giving a typical politician’s answer. Martha Kearney had another go in Wednesday’s World at One phone in. Caller Ellie Curran in Manchester had asked if he’d stand down in a year or two if there’s strong evidence from local elections, Labour party door knocking and national polls that “Labour is unlikely to win a majority at the next election under your leadership?”

“I want us to move might and main to actively oppose the Tories, the welfare reform bill, the Budget and the trade union legislation they are putting forward. We are a democratic party and everyone who is elected to office in the party has to be accountable, including the leader. So we will see what happens.”

Martha Kearney asked “Just to be clear .. do you yourself actually want to be Prime Minister?
Corbyn: “Look, I put myself forward in this leadership contest knowing there was difficulty in getting on the ballot paper. I’m grateful to colleagues who nominated me even if they weren’t so keen on the process. We are now in a very strong position. I am enjoying this campaign ….”

Kearney “Do you want to be Prime Minister?”
Corbyn “Hang on. Let me finish please. I wouldn’t be doing this if I wasn’t wanting and prepared to make on this position and the consequences that flow from it in the General Election and what follows after that. This is not about individuals. It’s about redemocratising our party.”

I think the answer you were looking for, Jeremy, is “No, the idea of holding power scares me to death”

I’m among those who agree with you that the surge in Labour Party membership is a good thing and that the new recruits should be embraced. I fear, you are destined to disappoint and disillusion them.

Your stuff about “moving might and main” to oppose the Tories is pure guff. The fact is that an Opposition that isn’t led by a potential Prime Minister and which isn’t seriously looking to replace the Government becomes a weak and ineffectual Opposition. You may oppose austerity, cuts and anti-trade union laws but if don’t pose a real threat to the Tories you end up colluding with policies that will damage millions of people.

Don Brind

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