The JC Debate

Blog #1

A weekend with Ken & Jeanette with many political discussions has, I think helped me clarify my views on the Labour Party and its leadership.

The commentariat, a dreadful word but quite an apt one, has declared that Jeremy Corbyn is unelectable as Prime Minister. These are the people that told us the general election would be tied, that Scotland would never vote for independence and that Labour would dominate Scotland for the foreseeable future. It has not been a good year for pundits. However in this case they are probably right. For Jeremy to surmount the indignant Tory press would indeed by an achievement. Though given the extraordinary rhetoric directed at barely-left Ed, what on earth is there left to say about someone who is genuinely from the socialist wing? But I accept, Jeremy is an unlikely prime minister even if elected. On the other hand, I think Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall are equally unelectable so I can’t see that it is worse to opt for one potentially unelectable leader over another. The point is that electing Jeremey sparks debate, discussion and serious reflection on where Labour is and what it is for. Frankly, a somnolent 5 years of Andy or Yvette before another miserable defeat will shift Labour nowhere.

I am not being original in noting that Jeremy has been successful because he come across as honest and having a clear point of view. Not having a point of view has been very fashionable since Blair; if you have a belief then someone will dislike it, so better to ‘triangulate’, hover in the middle, not commit yourself. This is the true philosophy of the Blairite centre ground irrelevancies. But times have changed. Farage’s four million votes didn’t come from equivocating, neither did the SNP landslide.  And now, shock horror, we have a Tory Government which, to its credit, is open and honest about its vision for the future. I abhor it, but they are honestly espousing a far right set of policies which will transform this country, certainly for a long time and possibly for ever. In response Labour supports the government, but perhaps not as much, or a bit more humanely or in moderation. What Labour and every person who is appalled by the Government’s ambition need is an alternative vision. Corbyn’s may not be ‘right’ – though it is not entirely ‘wrong’ either - but an alternative vision is now a necessity not a luxury.

And there are plenty of serious issues the Labour Party needs to address, starting with the economy. Corbyn is clearly anti-austerity. Irresponsible, fume the right, but these days he probably has the majority of academic thinking on his side, Certainly if we want to learn from the US, it is stimulus that has made the difference not cutting. But what do Andy & Yvette think about Austerity? As I understood it (and I may be wrong because, well it was a bit vague) at the election Labour supported austerity, but a bit less of it. Is this their view now? And have Andy & Yvette noticed that the government has used austerity as a cover for their main aim, reducing the size of the state? It is pure conflation to suggest that austerity leads to a massively reduced state. It is clever politics, but not clever economics. What is the Labour view on the Tory’s preferred model of government as a commissioning body, one that simply hands out the money to private contractors? These are important, possibly the most important questions and only Corbyn has answers. What about the benefits system? Again, we have no doubt where the Tory’s stand or where Corbyn does, but Andy & Yvette? Do they support the contributory principle and if not do they plan to scrap National Insurance? Are benefits a right or something earned, or something to be scrapped? And in the same area, what does ‘moderate’ Labour think about the government remorselessly leading the country into a third world model of employment, one where almost everyone is on short term contracts without benefits and on minimum wages? Aside from a tiny number of economically vital jobs, the Tory’s want total casualization. Do Andy & Yvette? We could go on, but one more area has to be raised. Immigration. Everyone would dearly love to know the Labour party’s position on immigration. Again I think (I should know, wasn’t it carved in stone?) it is like the Tories but more humane, but I could well be wrong.

Labour needs clear broad policy agreement on these topics, and it then needs to sell those view to the public. Where Labour has held progressive views, they have tried not to talk about them embarrassed and scared that the Daily Mail will ridicule them. None of this is good enough. Labour needs to believe again, and it certainly has enough policy areas where it can make a difference. Ed was not a left wing leader, he was barely across the centre line. How else could most people see little difference between this radical and rampant right wing government and the Labour Party three months ago?

So unless we can get some clear vision from the rest of the leadership candidates it has to be Jeremy. He may well be unelectable but he will revive and refresh a depressed, dispirited and pointless Labour Party. Shuffling along looking for a middle that hurtles rightwards is no longer an option.

Actually the best response is probably to open the process to more candidates on the grounds the current set are just not good enough!

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