Thursday, 10 September 2015
Why I couldn't support an unelectable leader
I almost didn't get a vote. When the nice young man from my trade union - Unite - cold called me I nearly hung up on him. I had assumed that he was going to ask me about PPI or changing gas supplier and he obviously guessed that he had a window of about 3 seconds to grab my attention so he gabbled through the sentence helloI'mfromUniteandI'mringingtoaskwhetheryouwouldbeanaffiliatedmemberandbeapartoftheprocessofhoosingthenextlabourleader... And then he took a breath. And while he was doing that I thought yes, I might consider that actually...
I didn't have much enthusiasm for the process however. And that didn't change even after Jeremy Corbyn had scrabbled together enough nominations to be allowed to compete. Not at first. I remember the sickened feeling I got at 10.05 on May 7 and I didn't want that feeling again. And I assumed that what the media was telling me was the true. Jeremy Corbyn was unelectable and that our only chance was to go with one of the others. I was also initially resistant to the Vote Corbyn movement because a lot of the people telling me that Labour HAD to choose him had also spent the weeks before the election telling me they weren't Labour any more and would vote Green or SNP or TUFC or whatever the Trades Union party is called. Anything but Labour basically.
So if pushed I'd have said I was vaguely pro an Yvette Cooper leadership, but the process was as long as a couple of back-to-back ice ages so there was plenty of time to ask around. To find out what other people were thinking. To ask ordinary decent people - people who weren't tribally Labour, people who might have flirted with the the Liberals those who thought the coalition hadn't been all bad - even those who sympathised with UKIP (there a lot of those in Yorkshire before you get all liberal metropolitan on my ass) - to ask them who might persuade them to back a Labour programme.
And I have to say I was pretty startled by the answers. Without exception the only one - the ONLY ONE - who had any chance with this diverse group of people was Comrade Corbyn.
I'll say it again. Corbyn was the only electable one. None of the others mustered anything better than a derisive snort. Their very names made a lot of people quite angry. If Labour has elected Corbyn it may not win. But my (haphazard) research suggests that if it has elected anyone else that it has absolutely no chance.
It isn't a left-right thing. It's more that Cooper-Kendall-Burnham are all too closely associated with the miserable and chaotic opposition of the last five years. From the people I asked there was the distinct impression that other right wing candidates would have done ok with the public - better anyway. A Dan Jarvis maybe... someone who wasn't so visibly rubbish during the campaign, not so associated with the Edstone and all that crap. These three were not only Blairite, they were a Blairite B-team. Not just Tory-lite but Tory Lite-lite.
The other big factor in the affection felt for Corbyn from right as well as left is that he seems so reasonable. He's gently spoken but says what he thinks in a straightforward way and in that he seems to resemble a Johnson or a Farage a Goldsmith or a Lucas. Only not as egotistical. He's anti-establishment in a mild and and safe sort of a way. And he seems attractively unstyled. And this resonates with people too. As a nation we are - let's face it - fairly comprehensively unstyled and quite proud of it.
And then there was the graceless way his opponents reacted to his taking the front-runners position. Not very sportsmanlike.
I'm not a natural bandwagon jumper. I'm suspicious of sudden enthusiasms and I'm also quite persuaded by those commentators who think Corbyn will hate being leader, that he may not last the course. But before he goes he might have shifted the debate. And the way the public mood has swung over migrants shows that change is possible.
And in any case I don't think the British people wanted a Tory government in the first place. Not really. If anything they maybe wanted another coalition, maybe wanted a Tory party with its hands tied and now they see what it is capable of with the LibDem cuffs off, they're changing their mind about wanting them near the levers of power in any shape or form.
Anyway, the voting is over (and there's still a decent chance one of the others will swing it - the Shy Blairite factor might kick in) but there's plenty for us to organise around. For me its housing, equal opportunities, the need for more creativity in schools, the chance for people of all ages and backgrounds to express themselves imaginatively, to be free from the drudgery of pointless work, and we could agitate properly for a fair voting system, to make this Queen our last monarch - enough to be going on with and it'll be nice to talk about what we're going to do rather than who is going to be on PMQs.