Burnham & Cooper were all set to fight it out for the leadership of the Labour Party when the ghost of the loony-left Jeremy Corbyn rose to haunt them by taking a lead in the polls
In the last British general election there was a massively over-hyped fear of a “Hung Parliament”, where no one party has an overall majority, stoked mostly by the press who had struggled to make politics interesting and (as usual) decided fear-mongering was better than just giving people the facts. It was our very lives we were gambling news outlets run by tory supporters told us, despite it being wholly normal down through the years for parties to share power, or rule with a minority.
Combine this wholesale export of fear, the useless nature of the Liberal Democrats (who sold their soul during the last hung parliament) and the fact the Labour leader couldn’t eat a bacon sandwich without looking a complete plonker and the Conservatives rolled back into power with a small majority and the facial expression of the terminally bemused and surprised. It was as shocking as the Labour defeat in 1992 had been when Neil Kinnock turned a lead in the polls to a loss at the ballot box.
Labour Lurches Loony
• Corbyn takes lead in polls
• Burnham & Cooper trail
• Kendall outside running
In the aftermath of this defeat the resignation of the Labour leader, Ed Miliband, paved the way for a leadership election inside a party whose historical roots were at distinct odds with their most successful incarnation. Tony Blair’s stewardship had brought them victory and power, but at a cost of their socialist principles (as laid out in Clause 4 of their constitution which was “revised” in 1995), but it would appear now the party may be willing to swap electability back for their lost values.
The issue then that dominates this Labour Party leadership campaign is the stark choice between old socialist principles and the “New Labour” path laid down by Blair during his years at the helm. In a media dominated (and indeed led) political landscape it would seem a simple choice, which would be fine, if the election wasn’t open to all members of the party, whose ability to make a simple choice of this nature is entirely hampered by them being a tad simple themselves.
Attack Of The Clone Candidates
No one was surprised when Andy Burnham threw his hat into the ring for the leadership. The former Secretary of State for Health had stood before in 2010, and his ambition is well known. A Blairite (in so far as he enjoys winning elections) he has been careful to keep his options open with the ambiguity of statement that is perhaps the hallmark of modern politics, beliefs and positions shifting to suit the audience not any particular ideology.
Those who like to bet on sports in the UK (and politics in the UK is just another sport) saw Burnham as the natural successor given the field and a fair few of them backed him at about 2/1 on Bet365 et al, however there were others willing to take up the reins. Yvette Cooper, former Chief Secretary to the Treasury, is a good parliamentary performer and a smooth politician, but being married to Ed Balls, former Labour shadow chancellor does rather make her Burnham in a dress.
Liz Kendall, the first of the party to stand for the leadership this time round, acknowledges that she’s the “outside” candidate, insisting that a “fundamentally new approach” was required for the party, something quite a lot of the party would strenuously deny having only lost the election due to the inept leadership of Ed Miliband. Her chances are slim (40/1 if the bookies are to be believed), but stranger things have happened in British politics.
One of those strange things is the candidacy of Jeremy Corbyn an old leftie who looks like he should be teaching the fifth form geography after lunch. He should have had no hope at all, the modern political world just too changed to go back to that sort of easy-to-rubbish pseudo-socialism, and yet he now rivals Burnham and Cooper in the polls. His very left wing presence has not just set the cat amongst the pigeons but given it a can of bird seed and armed it with surface-to-air missiles.
Corbyn nearly didn’t make it onto the ballot and had to have support “lent” to him by MPs (35 have to support a nominee) that didn’t wish to see him elected leader but wanted to “broaden the debate” within the party. Given Corbyn is a vice-chair of CND (the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament) and has repeatedly confirmed he’d seek to scrap Britain’s bomb the debate is certainly wider, however his taking a lead in the polls wasn’t part of the script.
In essence the party allowed him to stand so Cooper & Burnham (who sound like a law firm you wouldn’t trust) could appear more professional, and the party less full of shiny clones, the same reason Liz Kendall is being encouraged, but his rise to the top of the polls, and the odds at Bet365, means the election has gone a tad off piste, or has it? Some say his sudden leap in popularity is a sham, a way to motivate Labour members to vote in the contest, a boogieman to scare people into action.
This may well be true, but again perhaps the orchestrator of this theatrical election hadn’t counted on those in the UK gambling laws of Labour leadership elections were ripe for the plucking. John Mann MP has already called for the election to be halted following revelations the British Communist Party had been urging members to join the Labour Party just so they could vote for Corbyn, the risk now of a Corbyn leadership hauntingly reminiscent of Michael Foot and his donkey jacket.
Whether or not the rank and file will actually elect him remains debatable, but with Corbyn picking up big union endorsements his odds have fallen considerably to 11/8 at Bet365 with Andy Burnham close behind him at 15/8. Yvette Cooper gets a credible 11/5 whilst poor Liz has as much hope of being Labour leader as the party does winning an election with Jeremy Corbyn in charge. Sadly this is not because he’s wrong, but because the press will savage him for being right but not right-wing.