Wednesday, 5 August 2015

My heart is with Jeremy Corbyn, but my head is not

Oh dear! What should the Labour party do? Who should it choose as its next leader? My heart would be with Jeremy Corbyn but for all the wrong reasons.  What he says resonates with my anger at the injustice of the Tory government austerity programme.  It makes the poorest pay the most for the financial crisis. But Labour needs to keep a clear head and not retreat into its comfort zone where it says 'all the right things'  but could never do anything.  The danger is that Labour would become unelectable as it was in the 1980s - rejected by voters election after election.  Labour should not turn itself into simply a party of protest.  It needs to present a coherent programme for government. It needs to face up to difficult decisions, and it needs a leader who will be able to unite the party.  Jeremy Corbyn could not do that.  I fear his election would be divisive and more so since so many of his supporters are using his campaign to attack 'the virus' of New Labour.   
Whatever they think of Mr Blair he won three elections for Labour, and his government produced the biggest increase in spending on the NHS as per cent of GDP and reduced pensioner poverty.  Whilst there is much I did not like about his period of office, there were substantial achievements, and not least the minimum wage. It is foolish not to recognise this. 
Labour cannot achieve things by sitting on the opposition benches. This supreme fact the party learned during the Thatcher period. It took 18 dark years before that lesson was learned.  It is vital the Labour party gets this one right else it risks alienating voters.   There will be no easy path to winning elections. Whoever wins the leadership will have a difficult mountain to climb. It will take time.  Labour must address the concerns of the voters and not retreat into its own 'socialist' bubble. 
Labour needs not just a simple message but also a coherent voice. Sadly I do not as yet see that in any of the leadership candidates. For all that I warm to Jeremy Corbyn, and I do, he would be a comfort blanket. He says what we feel but that doesn't amount to a coherent and winning platform. When asked who had independently verified his economic plan he simply answered 'experts' but would not say who.  It certainly wasn't the IFS or any other recognisable body of 'expert' analysis. He would be torn to shreds if he became leader with the simple approach he has adopted. You cannot fool the media and voters with promises that have not been costed or without a clear means of paying for them. Simply being against austerity does not mean we have no responsibility for dealing with the nations finances. 
Of course we should not expect the Leadership candidates to have all the answers, But we should expect them to have some ideas about how to achieve their aims. 
Labour  needs a leader who will be capable of pulling the party together at this difficult time. Sadly, it is unlikely Jeremy Corbyn could do that.  I fear Labour is marching into the wilderness when the country needs it most.  Labour needs a leader who can reach out to voters and work with business.  The economy matters. 
Suddenly 'aspiration' has become a dirty word on the left.  It is dismissed as it if it synonymous with greed or perverse.  It is not.  It means the aspirations of ordinary working families. Labour should be the party of aspiration and hope. It shouldn't go back to fighting old battles of the 1970s and 80s.  But it needs a leader who will challenge the injustice in our society and who will speak up for the poorest and disadvantaged.  My heart is with you Jeremy Corbyn, but my head is not. 

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