And they’re off: Labour leadership

To the likes of Tony Blair and Alistair Campbell, this is what Jeremy Corbyn’s electoral success looks like: an inexorable, mindless force that’s destroying their cosy living quarters. To others this may look exciting and fun and interesting, but Blair and Campbell and the rest live in those houses: it’s their comfy homes that left-wing pressure would be knocking down.

It wouldn’t be reasonable to expect them to welcome this. (And they don’t.)

If Corbyn is announced the winner on 12th September, and worse yet for Blair if Corbyn’s Prime Minister in May 2020, then everything Tony Blair did to create a new Labour party may be destroyed: the verdict of history that Blair looked forward to, might amount to:

“Tony Blair, who tried to drag the Labour Party rightwards, succeeded in doing so from 1994 to 2007, but in the process lost many voters and MPs, especially after he took the UK into war with Iraq in 2003: but the old Labour Party was restored in 2015, eight years after Blair stood down, by Jeremy Corbyn, who then led the Labour Party to a large majority in the Commons in May 2020.”

That’s a paragraph Blair would never want to read in any history book, from start to finish. If Corbyn wins, Blair will want Labour to lose in May 2020. Blair may not have anything else in common with Donald Trump, but the two men have the same size ego.

Today, the Labour Party sends out the leadership ballots. The possible total electorate is 610,753 (though the Labour Party continues to verify people who registered for a vote who may not be entitled to because they don’t support Labour): this is 299,755 party members, including 232 MPs: 189,703 members of affiliated trade unions and the like: and approximately 121,295 people who count themselves Labour Party supporters and registered for a vote.

Tomorrow, people will begin to cast their votes for the Labour leader and deputy leader: and tomorrow, we’ll hear who won the Scottish leadership elections: either Kezia Dugdale or Ken Macintosh.

I look forward to the next four weeks (voting closes noon 10th September) with a kind of bored disgust: because until noon on 10th September, the 610,753 people who can vote for the next Labour leader will be told, by the Labour top brass, by most MPs, by left-wing and right-wing pundits, by the entire national media: Anyone But Corbyn.

It remains to be seen if that firestorm strategy will have any effect on the voters.

Labour Party Leadership votes 2010 and 2015

In 2010, each MP and MEP had a vote in the leadership contest that was individually far more influential that any other party member or affiliate’s vote. [The 2010 leadership electorate was divided into three colleges, as illustrated above: each college, MPs/MEPs, party members, and affiliated members, had 33.33% of the vote. James Wyatt’s comment below made clear the pie-chart showing this was unhelpful without further explanation.]

In 2015, their vote has diminished to a invisible sliver of the pie; but their undemocratic influence on the results could be considerable.

Labour Leadership electorate pie chart

Some MPs have tried the direct strategy of promising the voters that if their choice is Corbyn, they will do what they can to render the choice of the electorate null and void: they threaten “infighting and mudslinging” and promise they’ll tear the party apart if the voters choose Corbyn.

Some MPs have threatened to stay out of the Shadow Cabinet so that they don’t have to vote for Corbyn’s policies: as backbenchers, they can abstain or vote with the Tories. Some MPs have outright promised that they’ll do their best to unseat Corbyn as leader and have another leadership election (presumably with different rules) within the year.

Some MPs have threatened to take legal action against the conduct of the election on the grounds that if it delivers results they don’t want there must be something wrong with the process.

Labour leadership pie chart exploded

The Guardian and the Mirror have both ignored their left-wing readership’s preference for Corbyn to declare for Yvette Cooper and Andy Burnham, respectively. The right-wing press will range from supporting Jeremy Corbyn in a sarcastic “please let him win, he’ll destroy the Labour Party” to tearing him down because they fear that Corbyn’s leadership would force left-wing policy to be taken seriously again.

Many right-wing Labour MPs who have cheerfully supported Tory policies on welfare reform and austerity are afraid that if Corbyn wins the leadership and there are too many new left-wing Labour Party members in their constituency, their own re-selection to fight the 2020 election may be in doubt.

There will also be SpAds and interns who have already devoted several years to achieve their goal of a career as a Labour MP, by getting the right kind of degree from Oxford or Cambridge, by working for little pay or no pay for an MP or better yet a Shadow Minister, putting in the hard time in order to be selected for a safe constituency (Labour still has them) and begin a profitable and yet highly laudable career in politics. They may justly fear that under Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership, with the new influx of left-wing members and more expected, the order of things may change: perhaps candidates will be preferred for selection who have been care workers or admin workers. Perhaps people will become MPs who have been low-paid, unionised labourers who never went to Oxford or Cambridge, who may not even have a degree, who couldn’t ever afford to work as an intern or a SpAd. If so, for those SpAds and interns who put in their years of hard graft to get to be MPs, their career paths are in disarray if Corbyn wins.

Yvette Cooper and Andy Burnham will tell the electorate that their plans are the only realistic way to go. Liz Kendall‘s called for tactical voting by supporters of all three anti-Corbyn candidates in a last-ditch attempt to prevent Corbyn winning.

One strategy unlikely to be adopted: John Mann, Labour MP for Bassetlaw, suggested that two out of the three Anyone But Corbyn candidates drop out to leave a clear ABC or Corbyn choice. None of the three, Burnham, Cooper, or Kendall are likely to take his advice: not only would they have a hard time deciding which two drop out, but at least one poll suggests Corbyn might win in the first round with a majority of the first-preference votes.

Some pundits politely say this is because the Labour Party is now too broad church.

I think it’s simpler.

For years, the Labour Party was the party both for and by working-class voters: those who would never benefit from Tory policies.

Then as the Labour Party achieved real power – and even being the party of Opposition with significant numbers of MPs is real power compared to what most people have – becoming a Labour Party MP became a career path for ambitious youngsters with a concern to make things better and the certainty of Oxbridge graduates that they know what’s best.

The notion that a care worker who’s worked long hours for less than minimum wage could have a better sense of what’s best for working-class people even without a degree, just passes them by.

And as we’ve seen, as some Labour MPs react to the idea of being part of a left-wing party, opposing Tory policies and supporting the anti-austerity movement, these MPs are literally prepared to destroy the Labour Party rather than let the members and supporters decide what it should be.

There was a left-wing resurgence in the Labour Party. I panicked. But I think it's gone now


Filed under Politics

2 responses to “And they’re off: Labour leadership

    • Oh dear. James, I take it you didn’t look up how the Labour leadership voting system worked in 2010? Perhaps I should have made it clearer, but for me 2010 is recent history: in 2010, each of the three groups of voters got 33% of the vote.

      That was what the 2010 pie chart illustrated.

      (Also, in your pie chart for 2015, you have the registered supporters and affiliated members swapped over: you have Reg’d Supporters as 189,703, and according to the figures released by the Labour Press team, the number of registered supporters is 121,295 – the number of affiliated members is 189,703.)

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