by Kevin Meagher
I didn’t vote for Jeremy Corbyn in last year’s Labour leadership contest and I won’t this time either. It’s not because I think he’s a bad man, I don’t. And it’s not because he’s wrong about everything, because he isn’t.
In fact, he is sincere and compassionate – commendable enough qualities in anyone. But for a political leader that’s just not enough. The problem is that his ‘politics of hope’ – important and refreshing though it is – just isn’t tempered by the politics of realism.
Labour people should know by now that it isn’t enough simply to make the moral case that some injustice or other should be ended. The British people are practical. They want to know exactly what you intend to do and how you will pay for it.
Jeremy Corbyn fails on this score miserably. Calamitously, in fact. There is an empty space where, by now, he should have sketched the outlines of a new programme for Labour. All he seems capable of offering is slightly tweaked variant of the same stump speech he has been making for 30 years.
His biggest weakness though – and one his querulous parliamentary colleagues have let him get away with for the past year – is that he has nothing resembling a political strategy about how Labour puts its values into practice and wins the next general election.
Amid the drama of last year’s leadership election, the party forgot to have an autopsy on Ed Miliband’s miserable defeat. Those lost Scottish seats – forty of them – don’t appear to be coming back any time soon.
This forces Labour to win more seats in England, scooping up the kind of marginals that were only won at the height of New Labour’s power.
Banging on about unilateral nuclear disarmament and the iniquities of the Israeli state just doesn’t fly in the South Swindons and Bury Norths that Labour must win to ever have a hope of forming a government again.
Owen Smith now has a real chance to make a principled appeal to those Corbynistas who, reasonably enough, want Labour politics to mean something again, after enduring two decades of New Labour’s ideological crash diet, but who may, by now, harbour doubts about Jeremy’s ability to deliver electoral success.
In making his appeal over coming weeks, Smith should ignore the siren voice of the disgruntled Blairites, the 4.5%-ers, who simply want ‘their’ party back. After ignoring the party’s grassroots for so many years, they are partly responsible for Corbyn’s success in the first place; while the future of this party is about a lot more than the neat career plans of a few professional politicians at the top.
Moreover, it should be clear by now that ‘going negative’ on Corbyn, their default tactic, just doesn’t work. Every time he is threatened, there is another surge in membership.
Let reason win the day. Any challenge to Corbyn’s remarkable grassroots insurgency needs to offer hope and principle, but framed in the best Labour traditions of practical politics.
Yes, Labour is a moral crusade or it is nothing, but the man who uttered that immortal phrase, Harold Wilson, also managed to chalk up four general election victories and deliver real change and social justice in government.
At the rate he’s going – as the most unpopular opposition leader since polling began – all Jeremy Corbyn will be remembered for is destroying the Labour party as an electoral force.
Kevin Meagher is associate editor of Uncut