Let me make this clear from the start; I am backing Liz Kendall for the leadership of the Labour Party. I believe that she has the vision, the strength, the passion, conviction and charisma that we require in a leader, if we want to be successful.
When I read that Jeremy Corbyn was ahead in the polls, I was understandably dismayed. However, my dismay came; not at the thought of Corbyn leading the Party, but at the thought of how members of the Party would react to this news.
I was right to be dismayed, as various explanations of how Corbyn would be a ‘disaster’ for the Party soon surfaced and the predictable spats on social media dutifully followed. This has clearly demonstrated to me, that the biggest danger we face within the Party, is not the issue of going too far to the left, right, or centre, but the problem of disunity. It is division, rather than political position, which should be our primary concern.
All Labour members must remember:
- We are defined much more by what unites us, than what divides us
- We all want the same thing- a fairer society; only our methods for achieving this differ
As long as we are guided by the values and principles we profess to hold- those of fairness, equality and democracy, then any of the candidates should be able to do a decent job of leading the Party.
Every one of the candidates has grown and bloomed, because of the demands of the leadership contest and they have all shown themselves to be very worthy of our support.
So let us not be so quick to write off any of the candidates, because if we do that, then we are doing the Tories’ work for them.
Unity and respect must be our watchwords, which must guide our course. Deviation from that course will also be doing the Tories’ work for them.
So, could we be united under Corbyn’s leadership?
It has been said that Corbyn has always held true to the fundamental values and principles of the Labour movement throughout his political career. So, guided by these principles, if Jeremy Corbyn wins; in the same spirit as that which got him nominated, he will surely elect for a ‘big-tent’ shadow cabinet, in which all sides of the Party are represented, so as to ensure a genuine debate on Party direction and policy.
Just as I have previously advocated for a key shadow cabinet position for Corbyn; if Kendall wins, then in the same spirit; we should all advocate for key positions for each of the other candidates, if Corbyn wins. Now that we have seen the talent, intelligence and support they each have, why on earth would anyone sideline them, their ideas, or their supporters? I have no doubt that each of the potential leaders would feel the same and would therefore also advocate this course of action.
As long as we are united, and we utilise all the talent in the Party, then we will be a truly formidable force to be reckoned with.
If we could all take off our Burnham/Cooper/Corbyn/Kendall-coloured glasses for just a moment, then maybe we could see the value in each of them and get the best out of all of them.
It seems to me, that Burnham, Cooper and Kendall supporters wouldn’t find it too difficult to accept any one of those three as leader, as they are all said to be clustered around the centre-ground of the Party. Corbyn, however, has been derided for being a ‘dinosaur’, for his supposedly outdated, far-left, socialist ideas.
The first thing to say about this, is that insulting terms such as dinosaur are particularly unhelpful and will damage the Party, because of the enmity they will cause, far more than they will damage Corbyn, or his campaign. But, disregarding that, how should we feel about the prospect of a Corbyn victory- would it be as terrible as his detractors suggest? Let’s consider what he represents, before condemning him out of hand.
If we are truthful, we know that Corbyn’s socialist politics is the same politics that drew us to the Labour Party in the first place. Whilst we may have become what we claim is to be much more ‘realistic’, are we really prepared to completely disavow that fervent faith in left-wing ideas and principles that drew us together in the first place? Surely, if we are honest, we can see that, just like Burnham, Cooper and Kendall, he shares many of our values and views, so therefore deserves an equal amount of respect.
It has been stated that to elect Corbyn as our leader, would be to choose more ‘wilderness years’ of the kind that Labour faced under Michael Foot’s leadership. This a selective view of history, favoured by the right of the Party, which ignores the effect of the Falklands war on Thatcher’s popularity and the effect of the SDP on the Labour vote.
If we are comparing Corbyn to Foot, we should recall that Foot was elected as the compromise candidate, who was attempting to bring unity to the warring factions of Healey and Benn. It could be seen that the biggest problem Labour had under Foot’s leadership was not that he was ‘unelectable’, but was instead, disunity, which was of course clearly demonstrated by the defection of the ‘Gang of Four’ to form the SDP. The clear lesson here, is not that the Party would suffer, due to being too left, or right-wing, but that the Party’s biggest problem is disunity and internal strife.
History has shown us that the biggest threat to any party’s success is disunity. It was disunity that cost Labour the election in 1983 and disunity that brought down the Tories in 1997.
So, in answer to the question in the title: ‘Would Corbyn lead us back into the political wilderness?’ The answer is no, and neither would any of the other candidates. It is disunity and division which would be much more likely to take us there.
Now I am not saying that you should back Corbyn. I am going to continue to support Liz Kendall and you should continue to support your favoured candidate.
What I am saying is that we must respect every member of the Party and avoid disunity at all costs. Let’s focus on our similarities- our shared values and goals, rather than on minor differences in preferred methods to achieve those goals.
We must remember that we didn’t join the Party because of any one particular candidate; we joined THE LABOUR PARTY, full stop. So, whoever wins the most votes in the leadership contest, we must support them, because failure to support the elected leader equates to a failure to support the Party.
The new leader will represent the views of the Party that we joined and support, and it is our comrades; our brothers and sisters in arms; our fellow Party members- who share our values and goals, who will have voted them in, so how could they be wrong?
- The voters are never wrong.