The problem with ‘career’ politicians

Does politics make you angry?

It enrages me.

I’m angry about the bedroom tax and tax cuts for the rich. I’m disgusted by benefit sanctions and the resulting growth of food banks. I’m horrified by flawed ATOS assessments and the subsequent deaths of wrongly reassessed claimants – some through suicide. I’m appalled by cuts to public services. I’m outraged by rising inequality, and incensed by tax avoidance and the ‘one law for us, one law for them’ society we are living in. Most of all, I am enraged by the thought that the Tories now seem to feel that they have a mandate to intensify their assault on the welfare state we all rely on.

This inequality and injustice infuriates me, and I get even angrier every time I hear a Tory politician trying to justify it. It is anger at this injustice that made me join the Labour Party- along with a fierce desire for a less cruel and more humane society. Isn’t that what motivates and drives all of us on the left?

Anger is a powerful motivator, but it is also a useful lens through which to study our political representatives. Ed Miliband’s move back towards ‘old’ Labour values and a focus on social justice was really pleasing and reflects what I believe most of us want the Labour Party to be. However, this shift back towards a more traditional version of the Labour Party was missing one vital ingredient- anger.

Ever since the Conservatives came to power in 2010, I have become increasingly frustrated at the ineffectual responses of many Labour politicians to the pronouncements and policies of the Tories. Time and time again, I heard Tory policies which are ruining people’s lives being discussed in a calm, intellectual, dispassionate manner. I heard phrases such as ‘this is unacceptable’, or, ‘under a Labour government we would seek to find savings elsewhere’. To the people whose lives are drastically affected by cruel and unfair Tory policies, would this have seemed like an adequate response?

Many people are angry about our increasingly unfair and unjust society- about increasing poverty and decreasing opportunity, as well as decreasing support for those who are vulnerable and in-need. They’re angry, why aren’t our politicians?

Our biggest problem in politics today is voter disillusionment and disengagement. People are turning away from politics because politicians are increasingly seen to be all the same: upper middle-class, Oxbridge educated, career politicians, who are only in it for themselves and who just don’t ‘get it’.

The most recent example of this is Harriett Harman’s decision not to oppose Tory proposals to cut tax credits, which will unfortunately be seen as another example of an out-of -touch politician.

This is a much bigger problem for Labour than for the Conservatives. The failure of Labour politicians to show that they ‘get it’ is one of the main reasons that many of our core voters are abandoning politics, or being lured away by UKIP. Had all our ‘natural’ supporters voted Labour, the election result may have significantly different. When Labour politicians like Harriett Harman choose not to oppose policies that will severely affect working-class lives, it will always be seen as proof that Labour have lost their way and abandoned their core principles. Although we can understand Harman’s reasoning; that Labour needs to repair its damaged reputation, this will be seen as putting the Party and its politicians, before those whom the Party is supposed to represent. If the Labour Party wants any chance at winning again, then Labour needs politicians who can win back working-class voters, by showing genuine understanding and concern for their plight.

To address this, we should consider the example of some of our most revered former Labour politicians; Kinnock, Bevan, and Hardie- all known for their oratory skills, for their ability to rouse an audience and ‘rally the troops’. Their impassioned denouncement of inequality and injustice came from their first-hand experience of these things. Their experience of hardship and poverty was the well-spring of their passion. Quite simply, they obviously did ‘get it’, which is why they were successful. Nye Bevan didn’t hide his anger, famously stating: “No attempt at ethical or social seduction can eradicate from my heart a deep burning hatred for the Tory Party. So far as I am concerned they are lower than vermin”. Can you imagine any contemporary politicians saying anything similar? I can’t, and that’s the problem.

The policies of the Conservatives and their attitudes towards the poorest and most vulnerable would seem to deserve that kind of response, and if you ask anyone who is affected by these things, that is the response you get.

If the Labour Party wants to connect with and represent our core voters, instead of losing them to either UKIP or fatalistic apathy, we need to start speaking their language and showing that we really get it. Unfortunately, to really get it, you have to feel it; you have to have experienced it. We have many talented middle class MPs, with great intellectual gifts, but they lack the passion that comes from first-hand experience of poverty, deprivation, inequality and injustice. Therefore we must get more working class MPs, like the Labour titans of old. In the same way that the under-representation of women has been addressed, we need to positively discriminate in favour of working class candidates.

We must find our new people’s champions, who can rouse the troops with their righteous anger, revive people’s faith in politics and lead them back to the voting booths. Only then, will we once again be the party of ‘the people’.

Brian Back

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Would Corbyn lead us back into the political wilderness?

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.

Brian Back

What’s the point of the leadership contest? What’s the point of the Labour Party? – Answers to these questions from the Cardiff hustings

Many commentators in the media have questioned the wisdom of holding a leadership contest so soon after the election defeat, claiming there is no point having a leadership contest, without first undergoing a thorough analysis of the reasons for the defeat.

Some commentators have gone even further; claiming that not only is there no point in the leadership contest, there is no point in the Labour Party, as the election result showed that Labour has lost its way; lost its purpose, its identity, its core supporters and its relevance.

The Leadership hustings in Cardiff proved all those commentators wrong.

Whilst the election result was undoubtedly a huge blow, the hustings showed that Winston Churchill’s advice; to “never let a good crisis go to waste”, has been taken to heart by the Labour Party.

Coming off the back of an election defeat, the leadership contest has forced us to really think about what our party stands for.

The contest has brought a huge response from Party members; at meetings, hustings and on social media sites. Members have very clearly shown that they are not lacking in vision or purpose.

Party members know why they joined the Labour Party; they are unwavering in their belief and are demanding that their representatives in parliament demonstrate the same levels of conviction and commitment. This has forced the candidates to clearly define their vision of the Labour Party; what it is, and what it should be. Under the fierce scrutiny of dedicated, and at times, angry Party members, the candidates have been held to account; forced to prove their values and their worth; to prove their right to vie for the leadership of the Party. Faced with this ‘trial by fire’, the candidates have been forced to raise their game, to become the best that they can be.

Some commentators have claimed that the leadership contest is uninspiring; if that was ever true before, it is not the case now. What we saw in Cardiff; was four strong candidates, at the peak of their powers.

The candidates have been forced to carefully consider their positions on a huge range of issues, to the extent which, they each now have something close to a fully formed programme for the Party.

The contest has ensured that the candidates are ‘firing on all cylinders’, not just intellectually, but also physically and emotionally. The contest has demanded energy, commitment, conviction and passion from the candidates. In short, it has demanded that they become (if they were not already) the kind of politicians that we all want them to be.

At the hustings, the candidates not only showed their passion and commitment; they also all very clearly demonstrated that they share ‘real’ Labour values. Whilst their programmes may differ, their goal is the same- a fairer and better society.

At a time when disillusionment with ‘career’ politicians is rife, the contest has shown us that we have a team of talented leaders who share genuine Labour values.

The contest has shown us that we have leaders that we can believe in.

The contest has shown members how strong our team is; shown us that they deserve our support; shown us that the Labour Party is very much alive and well.

Not only that; the contest has also shown us that despite the occasional angry clashes of their supporters on social media; the candidates are very much part of the same team- they are all on the same side. This was clearly shown at the hustings by Liz Kendall and Jeremy Corbyn, who, despite their seemingly (or supposedly) opposing views, were very respectful and friendly to each other; often seen conferring on various questions and points throughout the event.

Not only were the candidates respectful; the audience were too. There was no heckling or booing, only intense concentration, and spontaneous outbursts of applause.

I was proud to be in the audience in Cardiff- proud of the Party’s MPs and proud of its members.

The hustings showed us that not only are the candidates very much part of the same team; it showed that that we are all on the same side. Regardless of which candidate we may favour; we all share the same values and goals:

We all want a fairer society.

We all want more equal opportunities.

We all want to take the fight to the Tories.

We all want to win!

So, what became very obvious at the hustings; was that, irrespective of who becomes our next leader, we should unite behind them and give them our full support, because they have all proved that they are strong candidates, who we can all be proud of. They are all ‘true’ Labour MPs, who share our values and goals.

We all know who the real enemy is- the Tories, so it’s time to focus all our energies on fighting them, instead of each other.

We all want the same thing.

We’re all on the same side.

  • That is what the hustings showed us.

So, when considering the questions: what is the point of the leadership contest or of the Labour Party itself, the hustings provided all the answers. We can see that the contest has already been a great success:

It has energised MPs and members.

It has rejuvenated, revitalized and renewed the Party.

  • And that is what I saw at the hustings!

I saw a party that was sure of itself:

Sure of its values

Sure of its purpose

Sure in its determination to take on the challenge of winning back voters

Sure in its determination to fight against the unfair and unjust policies of the Tories

At the hustings, I saw a party whose MPs have real talent, drive and conviction.

I saw a party that has a huge, ever-growing, dedicated and deeply committed membership.

I saw a party that I can be proud of.

At the hustings in Cardiff, I saw a party that can win.

Brian Back

Labour members are guilty of prejudice and discrimination

The Labour Party has always fought for equal treatment, and against prejudice and discrimination, but, in their desperation to steer the Party in a certain direction, and get their favoured leadership candidate elected; many Party members are now betraying their own ideals and values.

Those on the left continually decry the prejudicial stereotyping of people; such as those who rely on benefits, who are universally labelled as ‘scroungers’ or cheats’. We hate the lack of opportunities available for young black men; who are labelled as criminals, gangsters, thugs and muggers, harassed by the police and discriminated against by educators, employers and politicians. We favour positive discrimination in our candidate selection procedures, as a way to address gender-bias and the under-representation of women in politics.

Equality and fairness is our rallying cry, but we are failing to practice what we preach.

We have created a negative stereotype regarding one group within our Party. We have turned them into the ‘Other’ and the unwelcome outsider, tarring them all with the same brush, failing to treat them as individuals who deserve to be judged on their own actions and merits.

The group I am talking about; is ‘Blairites’.

‘Blairite’ has now become an insult, or term of abuse.

The term ‘Blairite’, now has incredibly negative connotations attached to it, with anyone labelled as such, somehow seen as ‘not really Labour’, or even a traitor to the cause.

Blairites are castigated for the desire to take Labour onto the centre-ground, therefore supposedly abandoning left-wing values, ideals and aims. In short, Blairites are criticised for compromising; for making deals with ‘the enemy’.

Those who criticise Blairites for this are forgetting the fundamental axiom of politics: the entire point and goal of politics is compromise– to reach agreement between different factions and interests, so as to come to some kind of ‘middle-ground’ that all can accept and agree with.

That’s how society functions– through compromise and agreement.

Politics exists purely for this purpose; to reach a compromise and agreement. To reject compromise, is to invite strife, conflict, revolution, or even civil war.

Therefore, centre-ground politics is not only intelligent politics; it is also moral and ethical politics.

That’s why Blair was so successful, because he understood this fundamental point; to unite the nation, we must reach a centre-ground between hugely diverging opinions on what is considered to be the right, fair and just approach to organising our society.

That being the case, the only person who ever really earns the right to govern and lead the nation, is the person who is willing to compromise- to take all views and interests into consideration, so that all parties can feel in some way represented by the country’s government. Anyone who can’t, or won’t compromise is therefore not fit to lead or govern.

Without the willingness and ability to compromise, there is no peace and unity- in a political party, or in the nation as a whole; there is only conflict. For the perfect example of this, we need look no further than the troubles in Northern Ireland, whose intransigent politicians and fundamentalist militant groups doomed their country to years of violence and strife.

Crucially, it was Blair himself who played the key part in bringing some semblance of peace to that country, bringing opposing groups to the table, to reach some form of compromise and agreement.

Blair’s ‘Third Way’ was the perfect example of centre-ground politics, that not only sought to unite competing interests, but also sought to combine the best elements of competing approaches, to create a synthesis- in which oppositional approaches and interests are brought together and reconciled.

Blair united the interests of business, with the social movement for a fairer society; seeking to use the rewards of a thriving economy to enable massive investment in public services, particularly education. This then brought outcomes that were pleasing to all, as, for example: a better-educated society meant not only more equal opportunities and greater social mobility, but also a much more productive workforce.

This is how politics should be conducted’; it is the ‘holy grail’ of politics- a true ‘One Nation’ approach. Political movements or parties that only seek to advance their own ideology or cause, without thought for opposing interests, doom the country to an eternal cycle of political and social conflict and strife.

David Cameron’s government is a perfect demonstration of this, as its policy of pursuing ideological goals and factional interests, without thought or concern for those disenfranchised by our electoral system, has led to continual protest, unrest and conflict. The recent austerity marches are not only a clear illustration of the Tories’ flawed approach, they also provide incontestable proof that the Tories are not fit to govern.

Therefore, we can see that Third Way, centre-ground, Blairite politics; that seeks to compromise, unite and synthesise, should be applauded, not castigated.

The problem we face within our Party; is that many people have misunderstood the meaning of the term ‘Blairite’. Unfortunately, people have come to perceive those politicians labelled as ‘Blairite’, as being politicians who would agree with, or do, everything that Tony Blair did. This is a fundamental misunderstanding. Just because Tony Blair took us to war in Iraq, does not mean that all Blairites would do something similar.

We have to disentangle and disassociate Blair, from ‘Blairite’.

To be Blairite, is to share his approach, not to copy all his actions.

To be a Blairite, is to be a Third-Way, centre-ground politician, who seeks to unite opposing interests, factions and classes; to promote both wealth creation and social justice; seeking a strong economy for a fairer society.

To be Blairite, is to be intelligent, moral and unifying.

And in case we forget:

To be Blairite, because of these things, is to be successful.

This being the case, we should see that an insistence on a no-compromise, ideologically-pure approach, is to choose ignorance (of the purpose of politics) over intelligence.

It is to choose division, over unification; and conflict, over harmony.

It is to choose defeat, over success.

So let’s look again at those who we name, and seek to shame; as ‘Blairites’.

The truth is; they have not sold out, or abandoned their ideals.

They have instead understood the fundamental principle and purpose of politics.

They have not shown themselves to be ‘Tory-lite’, or a traitor to the cause.

They have instead, shown themself to be fit to lead and govern.

Brian Back.

The 2020 General Election campaign has begun!

Whilst fighting this battle, we’re losing the war

– The ‘Air War’ in the media.

All the post-election post-mortems and leadership campaigns have been so caught up with the desire to push the Party to the left or right, or back ‘this’ candidate, rather than ‘that’ one, that they have completely missed the most important point:

Labour didn’t lose the election on political direction; it lost because of poor communication.

Here’s what they lacked:

A clear, straightforward message: the Conservatives won because of their simple and clear message- you can’t trust Labour with the economy. Whilst Labour may have had much more to offer the electorate, the message was garbled and unclear, so it didn’t connect.

An effective media strategy: elections are won in the media, not on the doorstep. From the very beginning of their time in government, every Conservative politician in every media appearance made sure that they repeated the same key point – Labour crashed the economy.

Labour never refuted this and it was this, more than anything else, which lost them the election. It has been shown time and time again: if you say the same thing often enough, people will start to believe it. Labour’s belief that it would win the ‘ground war’, due its greater number of activists, was always misguided, as the voters’ minds were made up long before campaigners knocked their doors.

So, what the Leadership candidates and the whole of the parliamentary party must remember; is that the media campaign for the 2020 General Election has already begun.

All Labour politicians must use their position in the public eye to broadcast a strong clear, unified message, that ‘brands’ and labels the Tories as the party of the rich, and Labour as ‘The Party of the People’.

This media campaign must begin immediately, because we are already in danger of losing the war before we have started fighting, by letting the Tories dominate the headlines with their message and their lies, while we dominate the headlines with our in-fighting.

The Tories have come out fighting and are taking advantage of our focus on the leadership contest. They have announced policies which are grossly unfair and made statements which are grossly inaccurate.

We must fight back immediately and oppose the government– that’s our job- we are the opposition. We should be doing all we can to protest and fight against the unjust and unfair policies of the Tories.

We have to get our message out and make people see that the Tories are making life much worse, for all but a tiny percentage of the population.

This is where the leadership candidates must play their part. It is time that they demonstrated that they are fit to lead the party, by leading the fight against the Tories and providing some real opposition. They are now in the spotlight, so they are ideally placed to make use of their position, so as to highlight the unjust and unfair Tory policies, and paint a clear picture of how life could be better under a Labour government.

We must drum our message home, again and again, ensuring that it is repeated in every media appearance, by every Labour politician, until it has become accepted wisdom and the common-sense of our time:

The Tories are the party of the rich, Labour are the Party of the People’.

So, let’s learn the most important lesson of the last election and beat the Tories at their own game

The Conservatives didn’t win because they were more popular.

They didn’t win because their policies were more appealing.

They won because of better communication.

So let’s get our message out there.

Yes, the leadership battle is important, but let’s remember what we are here for:

  • To oppose the government
  • To win the next election

The war has begun…

Brian Back.

Labour Leadership: Why it can’t be Corbyn, but has to be Kendall

Now that the dust has settled after the leadership debate, we can review the main talking points, and consider what we have learnt, since the leadership contest started.

So, firstly, who won the TV debate?

The general consensus seems to be that Jeremy Corbyn and Liz Kendall had the most impact.

But, having watched the TV debate, and followed the resulting arguments, the two most important questions for the Labour Party, and the answers to them, have become really clear:

What do we want?

  • We want a fairer society

What do we need?

  • We need to convince voters that we can create a strong economy.

I know, I’m currently just stating the bleedin’ obvious, so let’s break that down a little:

We want a fairer society.

We have always wanted a fairer society.

In the TV debate, the audience’s reaction to Jeremy Corbyn demonstrated that it is not just Labour supporters- most voters want a fairer society.

Jeremy Corbyn’s focus on inequality and injustice has been really pleasing to many Labour supporters, as these issues seem to have been neglected by many Labour MPs (see my article on this: http://bit.ly/1dqn4TO ).

The popular impact of Corbyn’s call for a fairer society has led many of his supporters to claim that he is therefore the leader we want.

But, what do we need?

If we want a fairer society, we need to win the next election.

Unfortunately, to win an election, arguments for a fairer society will not be enough on their own; the recent election result has proved that- as the saying goes: ‘it’s the economy, stupid!’

It has now become accepted wisdom; that Labour lost the election because they didn’t manage to refute the Conservatives’ claim; that Labour’s overspending caused the financial crash (see my article on this: http://bit.ly/1drc6NS ).

What we need, is a leader who can convince the electorate that Labour can be trusted with the economy. Is that Jeremy Corbyn?

For many Labour supporters, Jeremy Corbyn represents the true heart of the Labour movement (see my article on this: http://bit.ly/1AYjVFA ). His excellent speech and the ‘rock-star’ reaction it received at the austerity march in London demonstrated this and showed that the left is still a hugely popular and important force in British politics. However, all that really shows about Corbyn is that he is very good at preaching to the converted. That stirring speech may have wowed the crowd, but would it have changed the mind of those swing voters who doubt Labour’s economic competence? Whilst Corbyn’s values and politics are undeniably admirable, he is not known for having a strong economic plan.

But more importantly, Jeremy Corbyn is just not electable.

Think about it: many people thought (Red) Ed Miliband was given a hard time by the right-wing press. Corbyn is seen as being far more radical and left-wing than Ed Miliband, how do you think he will be portrayed in the media?

Communist Corbyn?

They will slaughter him.

In fact, the slaughter has already begun, with suggestions of his links to the IRA, Hamas, and Hezbollah already made public.

No, although we can definitely admire Corbyn, he is not the right choice for leader. Corbyn would instead, be a great choice for a key shadow cabinet role, so as to ensure that traditional Labour values remain an important focus for the parliamentary party.

What we need in a leader, is someone who will not only pursue Labour’s traditional goal of a fairer society, but will also be convincing in their claim to be able to create and manage a strong economy.

A strong economy and a fairer society, that’s what we have to be all about, that’s what has to be our focus and our ‘brand’, isn’t it?

That being the case, there is only one candidate who is convincing on both of these issues- Liz Kendall.

Liz Kendall is convincing, and most importantly, credible, in her desire to balance the books and create a strong economy.

She is convincing, and most importantly, passionate, in her desire to reduce inequality; to create equal opportunities and greater social mobility.

Not only that; Liz Kendall is a convincing and dynamic public speaker, who has the all-important charisma that Ed Miliband lacked, which cost him so dearly and lost Labour so many votes in the election.

However, despite this, Kendall is still struggling to win over the left of the Party, because she is seen as being too right-wing. This is mainly due to poor reporting from the press.

The media have sought to pigeon-hole Kendall as the Blairite candidate, for her focus on wealth creation and deficit reduction. She has even been accused of being ‘Tory’ for this reason. These labels are both lazy and inaccurate.

Liz Kendall’s focus on wealth creation is seen as right-wing, but this right-wing focus is based on left-wing goals; her aim is wealth creation, for wealth re-distribution. She wants a strong economy, so as to enable greater investment in the public services that benefit us all.

As for being ‘Tory’- for her desire to reduce the deficit, this ignores the huge difference between the Tories and Liz Kendal:

The Tories aim to reduce the deficit, by cutting public services.

Liz Kendal seeks to reduce the deficit, in order to invest in public services.

She points out that we are currently spending more money on servicing our debt, than we are spending on education. Reducing the deficit will free up huge amounts of money, which can then be used to repair the devastating damage done to our public services by the Tories.

I previously stated that our message and our ‘brand’ should be: ‘a strong economy, and a fairer society’.

Liz Kendall’s approach improves on that. If Liz Kendall was our leader, Labour’s message, and it’s ‘brand’ would be: ‘a strong economy for a fairer society’.

With a message like that, she can appeal to the left and right of the Party, and also the left and right of the electorate: to all of the Party, and all of the country.

‘A strong economy, for a fairer society’: that’s a brand and a banner that the Party can unite behind.

That’s a brand and a banner that can unite the country.

This piece began by asking what we want and what we need.

What we want and need; is a convincing and charismatic leader, who can unite the Party and appeal to the whole of the country.

Only one candidate answers this description, it’s obvious;

It has to be Liz Kendall.

Brian Back

Liz Kendall

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.

However…

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.

Brian Back