I recently joined the Labour Party. I’m the sort of person who drifted away from the party due to the Iraq war but given the binary choice we face in the UK I’ve always wanted a Labour Prime Minister. And that’s the reason I’ve joined, I want a Labour Prime Minister.
I recently went to a meeting of my local CLP where a motion on Corbyn was debated. Speaker after speaker (all over 45) stood up to complain about Iraq, PFI and other sins of the Blair government. I agree on many of the points, PFI was an accounting fiddle, Iraq was a disaster. However I don’t support Corbyn as leader for that simple reason, I want a Labour Prime Minister.
Purity is not a positive character trait in politics, responsibility requires difficult choices, getting anything done requires compromise and pragmatism. In the current climate anyone who disagrees with Corbyn’s absolutist stance is a neo-liberal, a Blairite, warmongering scum.
Let me tell you a story. It’s about a Labour politician who opposed strike action being used as a tool of political action. He served as a minister in a Labour government that followed misguided economic theory in imposing horrific austerity cuts on the country. He then took over after a coup to oust a pacifist Labour leader. So who is this neo-Liberal, Blairite class-traitor scum? Clem Attlee, the man who gave us the NHS and the welfare state.
Pragmatism and the ability to get things done are key skills for a Labour leader, but they are not the most important trait. That is the ability to win the 37% of the vote required to command a majority in the Commons. At the last election the largest number of people who left Labour to vote for other parties went to the Tories. For all the angst about losing voters to the Greens it was in the centre where Labour shed the most votes. If Labour wants to win a majority in the Commons it needs to win over around 3 million people who voted Tory at the last election. Do you think Jeremy Corbyn can do this? Do you think that a floating voter in Stevenage will look at Corbyn and say “he is a better Prime Minister than Theresa May”?
That last point is important. So many people at the CLP meeting said “We don’t want a presidential system”, well tough, strong & popular leaders win votes. Do you really think Corbyn will win in the potential Prime Minister stakes? Do you think that after a campaign with Corbyn portrayed as being in Gerry Adams’ pocket or being steamrollered by Putin will end with swing voters choosing him as PM?
You’ll notice that nowhere here didn’t really discuss policy. That’s because I agree with some of Corbyn’s policies, especially the idea of fiscal stimulus to boost the economy. However he does not have the political skill to win 3m voters, he is not seen as a strong leader (his approval ratings are worse than every party leader in history except Thatcher in 1990). He has built his career addressing rallies of people who agree with him and has built a personality cult based on those people. This does not demonstrate the ability to win over 3m swing voters in places like Nuneaton and Stevenage, in-fact it likely shows he may not have the detachment required to look outside his own bubble and see how to win over C1 and C2 swing voters.
I’m middle class, I can afford to wait, let Corbyn lose in 2020 and then rebuild the party afterwards. But there are millions of Labour voters who cannot afford this.
I want a Labour Prime Minister, do you?