I watched Liz Kendall speak for over an hour last week (16th June), at a meeting in Cardiff.
I have to own up; when I went in, I was feeling sceptical and was struggling to remain objective and neutral.
I am the most left-wing person I know: I read Marxist theory almost exclusively through university, and as a Sociology lecturer, I now teach Marxist ideas and theory almost every day. So, the prospect of going to see someone who has been labelled pro-business, Blairite, and right-wing did not fill me with much excitement or hope.
The meeting was a real lesson, in a number of ways:
Firstly, don’t rely on the easy sound-bites of the press to give you any real idea about any of the candidates. Liz Kendall is nothing like the person you have been made to think she is, by the reports in the media.
Secondly, it is important to avoid the almost automatic prejudice that many of us have against anyone considered to be Blairite. It is an easy assumption to make; that if a politician is Blairite, then they cannot possibly hold ‘real’ Labour values.
Liz Kendall faced a much more difficult and diverse set of questions than Andy Burnham had to face at his meeting the night before, but her responses were much more intelligent, well thought out and well-informed.
Her response to the (deliberately?) difficult and diverse questions was impressive. It was also eye-opening, because she is much more of a ‘real’ Labour MP, with very strong Labour values, than she is made out to be by the press.
Yes, she is pro-business. But that is because she knows that the only way we can solve the problems of poverty and deprivation is through doing all we can to ensure that our wealth-creators create wealth, so that this wealth can be used to solve our social problems. But make no mistake; although Liz is pro-business, she wants the rewards from successful businesses to be much more equally shared across our society. She very convincingly used the example of the manufacturing sector in Germany to demonstrate how strong unions can bring greater productivity and greater prosperity to both employers and employees, as well as greater security to both parties.
Liz Kendall very strongly believes in equal opportunity and social mobility. She also showed great understanding of how inequality starts at birth and must therefore be addressed long before children reach primary school, through interventions such as Sure Start.
As for the big question of austerity, or ‘balancing the books’: is she too right-wing? Liz Kendall’s answer is that the massive investment into public services that we would all like to see, can only happen if we first stop paying out so much money to service our debt, which currently costs us more than we spend on education. Therefore, despite this desire to balance the books being broadly touted as clear evidence of her position on the right of the party, she has definite left-wing aims that she wishes to achieve through this seemingly right-wing position.
At this meeting, Liz Kendall very effectively addressed the two big concerns regarding a potential Labour Leader:
Is she credible on the economy?
Does she hold ‘real’ Labour values?
The answer to both of these questions was a very convincing yes.
And, in the last statement, lies the answer to my biggest question- is she convincing- convincing enough to persuade the public to vote Labour?
One of our biggest problems in politics has been the perception that politicians are all the same, and that they are ‘only in it for themselves’. People are struggling to believe in politicians, because none of them seem authentic or genuine.
Liz Kendall spoke with real passion and conviction, she really seemed to care about the state of our country and the problems we face.
Liz Kendall was convincing. She was convincing in her answers to our country’s problems. She was convincing in her approach to repairing Labour’s record for economic competence.
Most of all, she was convincingly sincere and passionate about her reasons for being in politics and what she wanted to achieve.
Liz Kendall was more convincing than Andy Burnham.
She was more convincing than Ed Miliband.
If Liz Kendall had been leading the party at the last election, I believe that we would have been more successful.
Being as Marxist as I am, I am incredibly surprised to find myself saying this; but, of all the candidates for the leadership, I currently find Liz Kendall to be the most impressive by far and I believe that if she becomes our new Labour leader, we have a very good chance of winning the next election.