Yesterday I was locked in a meeting for 4 hours and by the time I had emerged the political landscape had changed again. We had a new Prime Minister elect with David Cameron humming his way out of Downing Street later in the afternoon.
Over the weekend I intended to concentrate on putting some thoughts down about the potential (now very real) Labour leadership election and what it means for Labour as well as the progressive left more generally. But there are so many aspects to what is happening in politics in Westminster at the moment it was almost impossible to focus on any single aspect of this realignment of political certainties. So I thought it would be equally useful to do a series of thoughts on certain aspects or themes emerging from the daily political stories. Mostly these will be in reaction to what I have seen posted on social media, or I have been asked by friends who have a passing interest in politics and still seem to value my insight almost everywhere I go! I am pretty sure my family looked forward to having more time with me not discussing politics with everybody I meet after I ceased being an MP over 6 years ago! But I guess I am still a political junkie.
I was going to delay writing about the Tory leadership election because I thought there would be plenty of opportunity to do so over the summer. How wrong could I be? So if that helps work out how reliable the remainder of this article will be you can probably stop reading now.
So what on earth is going on inside the Labour Party? Well that’s the politest way it has been expressed to me. How has it come to the state of Affiars that there is even talk of a split. Talk of splits is a scenario I would work hard avoid as the splitting of the progressive alliance has allowed the 20th century to be a Tory century with minority electoral support. Unity and cooperation of progresses is vital for the 21st century! But clearly not at all costs.
There are a series of fundamental problems with Labour that have been highlighted in the last 12 months. First. We are described as a Broad Church for good reason. We span a wide political spectrum (as all political parties do). We have ‘social democrats’ through to the hard left. The real hard left (SWP etc) have always been enemies of Labour who they see as a sell out. Since the loss in the 2015 Geneal Election and the Leadership election last year the coalition or `broad church’ has widened even further until the he tensions have become unsustainable. Generally many of the £3 members recruited have been from the wide range of Leftish groups often oppose to Labbour and its democratic parliamentary route to power. Second the Labour vote has continued to fracture along new lines – not simple left/right. We are losing much of our core vote to UKIP on the far right, not the Lib Dems or Tories in the centre. The 2015 election and the referendum result highlighted this frissure. The coalition of voters Labour needs to pull together to win an election does lead to inherent contradictions and messy compromises. But we now have a leadership with Corbyn that seems to have given up on the notion of winning elections as its primary purpose. This is a fundamental problem for many of us Ho joined Labur to win elections and change people’s lives. We need to be much more than the ‘social movement’ Jeremy seems content to build.
I have to be really open and up front. I am no Corbyn fan. But on social media that now makes me a Blairite to be purged from the party I have been fortunate to serve for over 30 years. It has been my life and I owe it a great deal. Ironically in my early years I was probably a bit of a Bennite and was described as such. In parliament I resigned over Iraq, didn’t support Trident renewal or the introduction of student top up fees as well as taking up other soft left positions. I shared a Westminster hall debate in support of Corbyn on nuclear non-proliferation for example. But because I don’t think Corybn has the ability to lead the Labour Party into an election victory I will still be shouted down as a traitor, Blairite, vermin, scum etc. I am clear that much of this is encouraged by those who support Corbyn to intimidate opponents. As I have nothing to lose, unlike many parliamentary colleagues and good local (volunteer) party officials, I can say what I feel knowing that all that can happen is social media abuse.
But over the next few days I will try to set out why I believe Corbyn is a disaster for Labour. I hope to show why he doesn’t have the basic leadership qualities to lead a political party (although surely these are all self evident), but more importantly why the electoral strategy him and his Momentum praetorian guard are pursuing is flawed. As somebody who has fought, won and lost in a marginal Midlands seats for 25 years I think I have a little insight into how you build an electoral coalition to put Labour into government. Loughborough has now been reduced to being 97th on the target list of seats Labour must win to have a simple majority in 2020. The Tory MP now has a majority of 9000. It will not be won back by appealing to the narrow band of the population who share Corbyns’ worldview. I will add a detailed analysis of why this just doesn’t add up later this week. Loughborough is a microcosm of the country – rural, urban, university, light and heavy engineering, BAME communities etc – it is all rolled up into one constituency. Whoever is the MP for Loughborough their party will probably be in government. Balancing the liberal Labour vote on campus with the ‘core labour vote’ on the estates and the new labour vote in the villages requires a broad appeal. Instead of widening the appeal internal Labour memos shows we have lost a further third of our support since the disaster in 2015 – and more worryingly even more In the marginals. This is the sole reason I want to see Corbyn step aside. He is ruining my Party. He is not leading, but is taking us to a dark electoral place of possible no return.
(Please excuse all typos – written on iPhone)