For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind

Both Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband resigned as party leaders immediately after losing the last two general elections and the Labour Party rushed into leadership elections in 2010 and 2015.  In 2010 the election was so rushed the nominations deadline was extended to 9 June after complaints from John McDonnell, Diane Abbott, and Ed Miliband that the short deadline had provided insufficient time to secure the 33 nominations from MPs needed for inclusion on the ballot. Five candidates polled the requisite number of MPs votes, Ed Miliband, Ed Balls, David Miliband, Diane Abbott and Andy Burnham. Alastair Darling, Peter Hain and Alan Johnson, all seen as credible candidates, decided against standing. Ed Miliband was selected. Instead of a period of consolidation giving the Labour Party time to put forward a much stronger slate of leadership candidates the seeds of the 2015 election disaster were sown.

Again if Ed Miliband  had stayed a breathing space would have allowed for  a carefully managed leadership election and given time for a credible list of candidates to emerge. We now have another botched leadership election on the cards. Operational planning would appear not to be part of the Labour Party manager’s lexicon.

Marx said that history repeats itself, “the first as tragedy, then as farce”. The 2015 leadership elections have rapidly become a farce.

Clem Attlee set out a simple vision in his election broadcast on the 5th June 1945 said, “The men and women of this country….need good homes, sufficient food, clothing and the amenities of life, employment and leisure and social provision for accident, sickness and old age. For their children they desire an educational system that will give them the chance to develop all their faculties”. It is too late now but it would have been helpful in terms of selecting a leader if all the candidates had set out a clear vision and a concrete policy that says, where are we now? Where do we want to be? How we are going to get there? What will be the result? What is required in terms of financial and human resources? Where will we find these resources? What is the cost? How will we pay for it? ”.  The candidates should also bear in mind Attlee’s advice to the new Government after the landslide victory in 1945, “You will be judged by what you succeed at, not by what you attempt”.

None of the candidates so far – with the exception of Andy Burnham – have advanced an explicit vision that address’s the problems caused by successive governments of every political stripe.

But let’s look at Andy Burnham, who rather late in the day published, “A Radical Labour Vision for the 21st Century”. Burnham’s document is flawed. He talks of an industrial strategy, yet strategy is the slipperiest word in the English language. Strategies are broad categories or type of action to achieve objectives. Regrettably Andy Burnham has not articulated any objectives.  The key objective should be re-industrialisation. He was part of a government in power for 15 years and industry did not seem to rank highly on their agenda.

Then look at his record. Andy Burnham voted for the Iraq war and was strongly opposed to any enquiry into the war.

Finally Andy Burnham says he is not part of the Westminster bubble. A quick look at his career and he has been inside the Westminster bubble for years. Also he has never held down a job in the real world.

Yvette Cooper, Liz Kendall and Jeremy Corbyn have all failed to set out a coherent vision and the policies required to achieve it.

You do not have to be Einstein to develop a credible vision that resonates with party members and the electorate at large. It is a great pity that candidates seem unable to develop a vision along the lines below:

1. A programme of reindustrialisation ensuring a balanced economic structure with a healthy, burgeoning manufacturing sector and an innovative digital economy all allied to a strong research and development capability.
2. An education system that is so good why would you want to send your children to a public school?
3. A National Health Service that gets back to being just that; it may well use the spare capacity of the private sector but gets rid of the twaddle of internal markets and ensures resources are directed to the front line.
4. An end to the housing scandal where people are being priced out of the housing market.
5. An action programme that creates social responsibility and destroys the welfare dependency culture in a fair and equitable way, whilst continuing to maintain a safety net so that further privations are not heaped upon the poor.
6. Reform of the House of Lords with a directly elected second chamber and a change in the voting system with the development of a federal system of government – Germany springs to mind.

Enact these priorities then issues such as equality and fairness fall into place. Instead of a compelling vision we have the candidates producing nothing much in particular.

Candidates have failed spectacularly to position themselves in the minds of Labour Party members. The exception is Corbyn who has positioned himself in the minds of those Labour Party members who cannot do the arithmetic required to enact his rag bag of “popular” ideas. However the crucial point is that candidates have to position themselves not only in the minds of Labour Party Members but the electorate at large to win the next election. On the available evidence to date they are failing to do that.

Unfortunately there is more bad news. The Labour Party are going to have a problem with One Person One Vote as Union members who are members of the Labour Party could end up with two votes and the notion of registered members is open to abuse from every Tom Dick and Harriett with an axe to grind – Daily Telegraph and Mail readers will think this is the perfect wheeze and this wizard jape only costs £3. The elections should have been members of the Labour Party only allied to some form of public husting. For example Sara Wollaston was elected MP for Totnes in May 2010 after winning the UK’s first American-style primary election open to every voter in Totnes for the conservative candidacy.

At the time of writing former Labour leaders and luminaries have been weighing in with febrile comments and other Labour MPs threaten a coup if Corbyn is elected. Corbyn without reference to Parliament or the Chilcot Inquiry says if elected he will offer an apology for the Iraq war. To paraphrase Harold Wilson, the Labour Party immatures with age

Unfortunately the Labour Party like many organisations is bounded by the rationality of the past and if it carries on without serious and imaginative reform it is destined for the political wilderness for years to come. What is needed is a Labour Party that is not old Labour, new Labour but 21st Century Labour

Attached documents (click to download)

Share this post: