If I were inclined to be pessimistic my Sunday has been ruined. However, optimistically, my day couldn’t have been more politically satisfying. I usually look forward to watching Andrew Neil on the Sunday politics as a hard-hitting round up to my political week; except today, I was subjected to one of the most self-indulgent and two-dimensional TV debates I have ever witnessed.
On the one hand, I was disheartened that the last Sunday Politics before the summer recess ended as a damp squib. However on reflection I quickly reasoned that the complete lack of calibre Labour now displays in its leadership candidates will ensure they are resigned to electoral oblivion for at least as long as they were after Michael Foot.
These four, just like the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, are all equally as damaging to their party in their own unique way.
‘War’ – Liz Kendall
Liz Kendall by being the token ‘Blairite’ candidate in the race, has re-opened the gangrenous wounds which Labour casually inflicted upon itself in 2010; Kendall is the living effigy of the internal party war over the future of its identity.
It is a historical fact that other than the landslide victories Tony Blair’s ‘Third Way’ delivered for New Labour, they have not won an election since the mid-1970s. At its heart, this philosophy hinges on the acceptance of globalisation and Labour appealing to an aspirant middle class. Yet with the accusations from Burnham and Cooper that the inheritor of the New Labour mantle is ‘Tory-Lite’ and with the inclusion of Corbyn in the race as someone who largely rejects globalisation, it is apparent that a profound schism is developing.
Now this wouldn’t necessarily be a problem; if a party doesn’t go through a bit of pain during a leadership election following a crushing electoral defeat, it is doing something wrong. In fact, what you want in a successful leadership election is for all of the factions of the party to come out into the open, air their views which may have long sat on the back-benches; then have the best ‘man’ win the argument by showing why their vision is the one that makes most sense and has more chance of delivering electoral victory. Schisms are then quashed, wounds in parties cauterised and a rally can be formed around the strong leader who won the political argument.
So evidently, the biggest problem Labour faces is that the only vehicle it has developed for winning elections in over a quarter of a century, is being represented by the political novice in the race. Kendall is not the kind of heavyweight that can sell a Labour Third Way to Middle England, which despite all the bluster around Scotland, is actually where they lost the election.
With no decisive ‘wartime leader’ for New Labour, this conflict will therefore drag on longer and like all wars of attrition, the wounds will damage all concerned in a profound way. This included interim leader Harriet Harman when she tried to use some common sense on Tax Credits this week. I know Labour are currently allergic to a bit of common sense, but they need to hold their nose and administer some quickly.
‘Pestilence’ – Andy Burnham
Although UNITE officially came out in support of Corbyn, Andy Burnham and his famously cosy relationship with the Trade Union pestilence is archetypal of the entrenched problems Labour faces. Without Trade Union funding, Labour would cease to exist as a serious electoral force; and so Andy Burnham plays the tune of the Unions, as did Ed Miliband when he famously repeated his response to a teachers strike back in 2011.
The greatest problem with this close relationship with the Unions is that it forces Labour into espousing the very rhetoric about business, the welfare state, tax and austerity that makes Middle-England smile, then back away slowly so as to not provoke an escalation.
Labour has just tried its hand at a leader who was elected directly because of union influence and it has resulted in the most thumping electoral defeat in a generation. Why is there any evidence that this happening again is what the electorate is crying out for?
Until the party finds some way to divorce itself from these influences, or at least instigates a ‘trial separation’ from them, Labour is in danger of being as out of touch as those they admonish in the Tory ranks.
‘Famine’ – Yvette Cooper
Yvette, currently the most plausible of the candidates, with some links to the Labour successes in the 2000’s and a reasonable performance as Shadow Home Secretary, embodies another problem with Labour; for the party that claims to be for everyday people, there is a famine of people from an organic political background in its front-benchers.
Yvette herself has taken the least original route into politics possible, PPE at Oxford, then a policy researcher and advisor for Labour, straight to Labour MP; not forgetting of course, her actual and political marriage to the late Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls. If the ‘Westminster Bubble’ exists, I would argue that Cooper is the metaphorical ‘Glinda the Good Witch’ who travels around inside it. Again, this speaks to so little of the people Labour needs to speak to.
Yet, this problem not isolated. Kendall went to a girls grammar, History at Cambridge, special advisor and researcher, MP. Burnham. English at Cambridge, researcher, special advisor, MP. The only one in the race who doesn’t have this problem is Jeremy Corbyn, which is worrying, as he presents Labour with a whole host of other problems.
‘Death’ – Jeremy Corbyn
Simply put, if Corbyn is elected leader of the Labour party, its death will shortly follow; and this is the reason I shall use all the power my £3 affiliate fee has bought me, to ensure it will happen.
For Labour to have just lost an election because they pushed too heavily their psudo-socialist agenda, only to double down on this strategy again under Corbyn, is surely the first sign of madness.
Labour did not lose Scotland because of a lack of genuine socialism, they lost it because of an insurgent nationalism and an air of ‘Metropolitan’ London centrism.
They did not lose chunks of votes in the north to UKIP because they admitted to the need for some public sector cuts, they lost it because of their record of incompetence and indifference over immigration and welfare dependency.
They did not fail to swing Middle-England because New Labour had been largely pro-business, they lost it because they had nothing to inspire aspiration and relied on the ‘politics of envy’ instead of a route to prosperity.
Corbyn believes that the Labour party lost because it wasn’t radially left enough, clearly some people agree with him. However, the left that does exist in they country, is not the old guard ‘left’ of Jeremy Corbyn, it is the metropolitan ‘champagne socialism’ and ‘fashionable liberalism’, that allowed them to hold onto the greater-half of London. While they might lend Corbyn their support now, because of a complete lack of originality and genuine conviction among the other candidates in the race, this is only a fragile marriage of convenience which is nothing to built a party from.
By September, one of these ‘Four Horseman of the Labocalypse’ will be in charge; however, as you can see whoever triumphs there will be continuing complications for the party going forward.
If I were to engage my political radar for a moment, it would strongly suggest that because of this, the new leader will at some point before the next parliament, face some kind of ‘palace coup’ for the leadership. They may put up with whomever they get for now; but mark my words, it wouldn’t take long until they start praying for the deliverance of a Messiah to save the day.