‘Silly Season’ time again this side of the Pond. This used to mean, apart from obscure foreign interest stories, nothing much happened for a couple of months in the Summer. That paradigm has changed (if it ever really existed). News and politics is a constant cycle now; there is never a real break from events or a crisis. Life, it all of the petty squabbles and great issues continues remorselessly.
One such place where the beat goes on is during an interminable succession race for the Labour Party leadership. There is absolute panic among moderates and Blairites after a Yougov poll gave Jeremy Corbyn the lead. Cue the media gleeing (who are overwhelmingly anti-Labour) and promoting of Corbyn’s cause knowing that it his election would ultimately lead to electoral disaster for the party. Some of this is pure mischief making, more is unfounded speculation with weeks still to go but some of the analysis is real and sincere. Labour would be taking a massive gamble if they were to elect Jeremy Corbyn as their new Leader. This would be a huge leap into political dark matter – a stupendous risk.
Jeremy Corbyn’s analysis of global capital is something anyone the Left would find hard to really argue with. But like all his predecessors from the Hard Left ‘Campaign’ group, we are into ways and means. The most obvious issue around this election is where the party members want Labour to position themselves? A Jeremy Corbyn win would be that equivalent of the party electing Alex Tsipras; but a Tsipras that wouldn’t sell out on his left wing principles. It’s hard to see how many of Ed Miliband’s shadow cabinet, let alone the remaining Blairites, could offer any loyalty to a man they believe will write them another 1983 manifesto, famously described by Gerald Kaufman as ‘the longest suicide note in history’. It really pains this writer to say this, but Tony Blair is right when he says Labour can not seek a comfort blanket after their post-election blues. Make no doubt about it, the Party was traumatised in May. A big if, but if it had not been for Scotland and the Bogeyman of the SNP, Ed Miliband would be in 10 Downing Street now. The party is still in a state of shock but each member, trade unionist and elected member needs to decide if Labour wants to be predominantly a party of principle that probably won’t win an election for another 15 years, or if they want to be a Movement, that believes in the idealism of the Centre-Left but recognises the need to be in Government to implement change.
One of the more depressing aspects (from a Left perspective) of the Greek crisis, is how powerless the Hard and Soft Left are against Global Capital. Labour electors need to take a hard look at the lessons from Athens. Britain is nowhere near the debt level that will enslave the Greeks for generations but the Syriza failure is a stark warning of what happens to a political movement that takes Capital on in a straight head-to-head battle. Capital, these days, is always winner. The Soft Left, Social Democrats and Democratic Socialists need to learn lessons from this – to think smarter, to realise that they are in for the incremental long-term. This is not easy; the Left is in tailspin but times and things do change. It’s no revolutionary slogan but it is reality.
That is why Labour voters should think twice before they mark their ballot papers for Leader and Deputy Leader. Liz Kendall would equally be a disaster for the party; she’s shown every intention of throwing everything out the window that makes Labour not the Tories.. The structural issues in Britain need a John Smith figure now, not a Tony Blair one. Liz Kendall would be an enormously alienating figure that could condemn any hope of a Labour revival in Scotland. She was an early media favourite but is now being pressurised within the Party to drop out to stop Corbyn. Liz Kendall may have a lot to offer, but the offer isn’t leading a demoralised party back into power. That is for others to do.
The real choice to be made is between two perfectly capable candidates wiling to grip and lead the party from the Centre-Left. Both Andy Burnham and Yvette Cooper would make fine leaders who would steer the party in the right direction. Any elector that votes with their head and heart would have to see this. The strange days of Summer have thrown up a leadership contest that gets to the heart of what the party stands for. If the electors choose Burnham or Cooper, they’ll have demonstrated that they’re serious about getting back into government sooner rather than way, way later.