It would be a bit of a cheek if I, being a non member of the Labour Party, were to suggest who should be its next leader. But as one interested in politics and how this impacts on our society, I cannot be a disinterested onlooker for the outcome will affect us all. I haven’t studied the current crop of candidates in detail and have to admit, unlike in the Wilson-Callaghan years or more recently the Blair-Brown years, I have little knowledge of them and what they stand for. It I were to venture an opinion, I would probably discount Liz Kendall as too far to the right and Jeremy Corbyn as too far to the left. Andy Burnham has blotted his copy book by coming up with unhelpful suggestions like insisting teachers who don’t support same sex marriage not only have to teach it but do so in a gay affirming way. This then leaves the capable Yvette Cooper but I better not endorse her as it generally turns out to be the kiss of death. Besides, Labour need to have that debate and come up with the person they feel most capable of leading Labour in government.
As I survey the post election picture regarding government and its opposition, I ask myself where that is going to come from. UKIP and the Greens have both made large strides in recent years and while they have contributions to make on the issues in which they are strong, neither look anywhere near likely to play much of a part in government in the near future. The Lib Dems are still recovering from a bloody nose, although now the only way is up. However, until they stop being the neither here nor there and a majoring on the minors party, I for one can’t take them seriously. As for the SNP, their gains are impressive but their pro-Scotland agenda fails to make them anywhere near credible. That only then leaves Labour.
My main gripe with the Conservatives is while there are some who I would insert the prefix “caring” before the party name, I fear they are in a minority and when it comes to issues as social justice and looking after the poor they fail to get it and because the opposition is weak they can’t easily be forced back into caring mode, if indeed it was ever there in the first place. One of the intriguing twists in the Labour Leadership battle is that Jeremy Corbyn, who only just managed to scrape onto the ballot paper, is now a serious contender and could well end up as the bookies favourite. Ex Prime Minister Tony Blair (soundly chided for doing so by his former deputy, John Prescott) has recently counseled the party to NOT vote for Corbyn and as much as I am no fan of Blair, I fear he could be right. I lived through the time when Thatcherism ruled the roost and as much as I admired Michael Foot, he was a disastrous choice as leader and it seems to me that Jeremy Corbyn is of a similar ilk. One thing Tony Blair did do, despite his many (in my opinion) faults, was make Labour electable, and accordingly has earned the right to speak.
The answer as to what might be Labour’s best chance of getting back into government is not to be found in appointing the leader that happens to make the right noises and tick the right boxes. Growing up in the 1950’s and 60’s, I knew all too well some of the concerns expressed by what was then described as the working class and how it was felt in many quarters that Labour were likeliest to address those concerns. On the other side were concerns about security, freedom, prosperity, business, and balancing the books, and the reason why Labour never fully won the argument, until Blair compromised on these matters, was that doctrinaire socialism and nanny state politics was not properly balanced by this other stuff. Different times, but many of the issues in the 1950’s are today’s issues, albeit couched differently. I will be following the debates with interest and hope Labour does regain its heart and soul but also with the necessary pragmatism that Tony Blair had, and the candidate that has understanding and insight into all these matters, and the character to lead, communicate and deliver, is the one appointed, and he/she does have the support of the whole party and, in the four and bit years before the next election, lead a formidable opposition.