Tuesday, 16 June 2015

The Labour leadership battle isn't a beauty contest

Debate is good, debate is healthy, debate is just what a political party needs after a hefty election defeat. And some Labour activists need to get a grip as many, with Dan Hodges as the standard bearer, seem to think Jeremy Corbyn's inclusion on the leadership ballot is a sign of an unprofessional party as he is simply 'not ready' to be Prime Minister (Corbyn is, for the record, 66).

It is an absurd, anti-democratic, argument. And even if it were true, it isn't unique to Labour; the Conservatives elected Iain Duncan Smith as leader and even John Redwood had a pop.

Yes, Corbyn only got on the Labour leadership ballot as several of his comradely MPs lent their support and nominated him. But this only recognises, whether certain members like it or not, that he represents a not insignificant body of opinion within the party. Surely the hope of the other candidates is that by including him in the debate his more eccentric ideas can be exposed and anything of value can be swiftly co-opted by a candidate more likely to be successful. And, of course, by having the debate, those on the far left will not feel the need to cut their ties to the party altogether. It's a simple method of securing a few votes in the future.

Those arguing that he shouldn't be on the ballot seem to me to struggle to put forward a coherent argument. Yes, it may be the case that it is indulgent of the Labour Party and it may also be that he would take the party to an even more unelectable position, but these remain matters of opinion, not rules of law. This shouldn't, therefore, deny Corbyn of a voice.

Should he, therefore, be banned from standing? Should he and his supporters be the victims of a purge, like Militant all those years ago?

Some even argue that a leadership contest is not, in fact, a debate at all and here I'm lost. If it's not a debate what is it? Should the leading candidates simply agree on the main issues and let the contest be a judgement on physical beauty instead?

As I've argued before, the Conservatives will have their own problems at the next election as they'll either have a new leader with the baggage of 10 years in government - which rarely does them much good - or they will have a new leader without the personal appeal of David Cameron. The emotional spasms currently afflicting the Labour Party were an inevitability after May 7, but, in the main, they are recoverable (Scotland is a different matter).

Despite the best efforts of a few on the right trying to have a jolly good laugh by ironically signing up as Labour supporters just to give Jeremy Corbyn a boost, the Honourable member for Islington North won't win the Labour leadership. In a few months this will all be largely forgotten by the electorate, who, for the main, have no interest in the internal politics of our major parties. And, if anyone does remember, they'll wonder what all the fuss was about.

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