Following Tony Blair’s messianic intervention [Is God still telling him what to do? And if so, God is indubitably a capitalist.] in the Labour Leadership election last night, this morning John Prescott rolled into the television studios in rebuttal mode.
He slammed a couple of successive sixes, one saw Blair whacked straight into the boundary and the other saw Harman soar over the grandstand.
Having done the heavy lifting, Prescott relaxed back in his chair and put the commonsense perspective – as he has always been very good at doing.
‘It wouldn’t be a disaster if Jeremy Corbyn was elected’.
This came after the most vacuous and damaging leader Britain has ever had told his audience of acolytes in London that followers of Corbyn who are voting with their hearts should ‘get a heart transplant’; and after Margaret Beckett, who was one of Corbyn’s nominees, saw fit to describe herself as ‘a moron’ for doing so – because all she really wanted was for his views to be part of the debate, not for him to win.
Both of these mouthpieces imagine that Labour has a chance of getting elected in 2020.
The next five years will be full of noise, smoke and mirrors – but the probability is that the Conservative government will deliver a sound economy while the eurozone works its way through the consequences of the third bailout for Greece; and while, in Scotland, the continuing decline of the North Sea leaves the SNP’s financial propositions giving food for thought only to those who are thinking.
Labour needs to accept the reality and plan to turn it to advantage.
There is no need to come roaring back now with a winner – if they had one.
Looking at the current four leadership candidates, what – really – are the options?
Kendal, currently the back marker, is good to look at, composed, smart and gutsy – but lacks the authority of a potential leader. She’s not even serious Cabinet Minister quality.
Yvette Cooper is clearly capable of managing a large school – because the rubric for that particular responsibility is narrow and focused. She lacks the breadth of understanding and vision – the complexity – necessary to lead a nation and one as volatile as the UK is today.
Andy Burnham is the male equivalent of Liz Kendal, good to look at [even male journalists rave about his eyelashes], but is another lightweight. Like David Cameron he is overly quickly responsive to noises off to have a settled perspective that informs what he does. And the unions will have their quid pro quo for supporting him.
And then there’s Jeremy Corbyn.
The simple and very straightforward fact is that Corbyn is the only one who seems real, not a prefabricated politician but a person who believes in a particular way of looking at the world. He has visible credibility which the others do not. He can talk to people, not at them – while the others perform, working to impress.
If you accept that Labour are looking at a minimum of ten years out of office, they can afford to fail; and where – really – are they going to get with Kendal, Cooper or Burnham?
Corbyn has a gentle persuasiveness which is quite different from the wild eyed intellectualism of Michael Foot, of whose record not-in-office Labour are running scared.
If Labour elect a leader who will try to occupy the same territory as the Conservatives, which is what the Blair zombie advocates, they will be unable to do it effectively – because it is not quite where the three candidates of this persuasion are, so they would be roundly outplayed.
If Labour were to elect Corbyn, the party would then offer the country perspectives it will hear from no one else, perspectives that will at least recover a proportion of its lost audience south of the border.
Forget Scotland. The SNP has that covered for the foreseeable future; and it is the fresher and more focused Scottish Conservatives who are more likely to make the first inroads to that domination when the time comes
But Labour under Corbyn would actually have a character, would have an audience – none of which any of the other laboratory-made clones is capable of generating.
Corbyn would not win the next election – but neither will anyone else; and if the party’s performance in 2020 held up to 2015, he would leave the party no worse off electorally but possibly in better spirit in the country, if not at Westminster- which matters so much less than the circus there imagine. Corbyn would be 71 by 2020 and would probably be happy to hand over a party with a sense of renewal to a successor.
If the Blairites think that resurrecting Alan Milburn to warn against ‘the left’ – they must have forgotten what everyone knows about Milburn. This is the hugely egoistical Cabinet Minister who knew exactly how to farm his ministerial brief, position and contacts to make his fortune in the health industry – much while he was still in government. This is the Milburn who opposed Labour’s plan to stop privatisation of the NHS – because he had his business interests deep in the coffers of just that privatisation.
The Blairites think David Miliband is an election winner waiting in the wings ,who only has to be revealed as a candidate for a grateful party to hoist him aloft and a mesmerised country to make him Prime Minister.
In believing this, their connection with the nation is as distant as you would expect from a former Labour Prime Minister who has sold himself for as much lucre as he could grab to a succession of dictators to whom ‘human rights’ is so foreign they think it must be an acronym of some kind.
David Miliband was as big a joke to the country as Ed ever was, bigger sometimes. Have they forgotten the banana? His only advantage was that he was the ‘Blair candidate’ and Westminster circles never could detect the absence of an emperor’s clothing.