Thursday, 10 September 2015

Left Foot Forward?

Welcome to my new politics blog. I've been intending to set this up for a while now. I'll try to make regular posts, and I expect I will be, given the sea change in British politics, since May.

Today is the day the Labour Party's 2015 leadership election comes to a head. At the time of writing, the deadline for all votes cast is mere minutes away. It is going to be one of the most edge-of-the-seat political events of the decade. It is an election, where the result could quite possibly define a generation. If the leader is not able to recover the Labour Party's fortunes, after a shocking defeat in May this year, the Conservatives may extend their hold on No. 10 well into the 2020s. This would put the current Conservative administration close to the tally of the Thatcherite/Major years. In other words, Labour electoral wilderness.

Such a prospect would be devastating for Labour. Under Tony Blair and Gordon Brown's New Labour government, the party held power for thirteen years. David Cameron and a successor holding office until at least 2025 would reverse all thirteen of these years, and then some.

The polls up to now suggest that the MP for Islington, Jeremy Corbyn is expected to win the leadership. The BBC's latest Panorama episode, dated 7th September revealed that Jeremy Corbyn nearly didn't make it onto the list, and was 5 nominations short at one point. Two minutes before the deadline, MPs got him over the finish line; not necessarily out of genuine support, but to ensure a broad spectrum of debate. John McTernan dubbed these MPs "morons" on a July edition of Newsnight.

Liz Kendall MP is seen by many as the Blairite candidate, and her polling has been disappointingly low. At a time when the party is grieving, it's likely they don't want to listen to a candidate telling them they must appeal to Tory or UKIP voters, to win back power. Liz Kendall released a campaign ad on YouTube a few weeks ago, but it attracted ridicule from some, by depicting Liz in an office by herself, solemnly typing a message and pacing around the room. There are even memes of it now. Not what was intended at all. Online supporters of Jeremy Corbyn, dubbed Corbynistas, have been criticised for bombarding the Kendall campaign. They have thrown a load of slurs at her, calling her Tory, a witch, and one called her a better-looking Margaret Thatcher.

When the votes are finally counted and the leader is announced, I hope people don't let this sort of thing happen again. It's dispiriting to watch  a party of opposition attacking itself. We need an opposition to scrutinize the Tory-majority government, albeit a wafer-thin majority government. I'm not terribly convinced that the Andy Burnham campaign has enough momentum to make a last minute surge and take us all by surprise. Mr Burnham ran in the 2010 leadership election, and came fourth out of the five candidates, meaning he was eliminated only in the second round. I would expect to see him come third this time round, ahead of Liz Kendall.

What I do think could happen is that Yvette Cooper could just about pull off an unexpected victory, based on strong first preference votes, combined with high numbers of second preferences. One snag is that a last-minute surge is highly speculative. It was claimed last week that half of all the voters had not cast their votes yet. Others believe most of the votes were already cast, before Yvette Cooper took centre stage, over the refugee crisis in mainland Europe. If she wins, it could be close.

As a simple general point, Labour cannot hope to win if it directs all of its anger and resources against its own leadership candidates. It's simply not acceptable to allow this kind of infighting, when you're a potential party of government. It's the sort of behaviour that makes people start to think, "thank goodness this bunch aren't in office anymore, look how nasty they still are". The next Parliament is going to see the state rolled back on an unprecedented scale. The economy is in a sweet spot at the moment, and the government's cuts are now being pursued on purely ideological grounds. The Prime Minister entered office in 2010, promising to save the country from becoming the next Greece, and we're supposed to believe that all is well, but there are still doubts lingering at the back of our minds. The EU referendum is on the horizon, and continuing austerity will likely make social inequality worse over the coming years.

The government of today is not going to last forever. Ever government has its Achilles Heel. Labour has to be in a position to pick up the pieces if needs be. All I would say for now is that, based on reading and watching how the Tories and Labour fared, in previous periods of opposition, they required a charismatic youthful leader, in order to finally win an election, after multiple attempts. Let's hope Labour picks the right person, whoever they are, this time round. Keep your eyes peeled, as I'll hope to write up a post-election update. See you then!


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