Saturday 25th July
We are in a particularly strange and almost sterile Labour Leadership Contest. Almost, except that suddenly the cat is among the pigeons and feathers are flying all over the place. I must say I was incredibly disappointed at the four candidates who emerged from the possible MPs, each of course requiring 35 backers. Andy Burnham of course, doey-eyed and cuddly but quite quite innocuous; Yvette Cooper, clever but no charisma; Liz Kendall, far too Blairite and also seeming to have a personality by-pass. Oh, and Jeremy – the almost compulsory left-winger (just to appear to be inclusive, he was included but nobody really considered him a serious contender). I was more shocked at the lack of Chucka Umuna, or Tristram Hunt or Rachel Reeves – any one of whom would have knocked the other three into a cocked hat.
The trouble is that they are all desperately trying not to be Ed Milliband, or Gordon Brown come to that. They are all wondering, as we all are, quite why Labour lost so badly. And all three of the mainstream candidates (in other words anyone whose name isn’t Jeremy) seem to think it was because we appeared too left-wing, too extreme somehow – and they are all to differing degrees positioning themselves as offering something different and new while appearing bereft of actual ideas; posing varying positions on New Labour. But what if they are all wrong, and the reasons the voters didn’t choose Labour was because nobody knew what they stood for anymore. Certainly in Scotland a far more left-sounding party swept the board. In England Labour were squeezed by UKIP and a very clever Tory campaign of fear; fear of immigrants, fear of Europe and fear of the Jocks running the show. And Labour looked weak, promising not much different from the Tories anyway.
And maybe at least with Jeremy, although he will be slaughtered by the right-wing press (mind you they would slaughter Maggie now if she said she was standing as Labour) he at least is clear and unambiguous about what he believes in. Helping the poor and re-building the NHS, and schools and houses. You see, no matter how nice Andy, Yvette and Liz might look, and how Tory-lite their policies might be, come the election and for five years before that they will be presented as redder than Ed, so we might as well have the real thing. At least people might like and begin to believe what Jeremy is saying.