Jeremy Corbyn is surging ahead in the polls.
Tony Blair is right. He must be stopped.
On Wednesday 22 July, a giant awoke from its slumber with some hard advice for the tribe of which he was once chief. Many of the tribe’s people refuse to listen to the giant, saying that the tribe he led was not the tribe they believe in, and are ashamed that their tribe was once led by him. That giant is, of course, Tony Blair, and the tribe, the Labour Party.
When Ed Miliband resigned after a crushing defeat in this year’s general election, the Labour Party was thrown into the turmoil of an internal election to determine who will lead the party, and ultimately, in what direction it will go. As the dust settled, four serious candidates emerged: Kendall, Burnham, Cooper and Corbyn. The last name in that list is probably the most divisive figure of the bunch. Jeremy Corbyn, an MP since 1983, decided to throw his hat into the ring and barely gained enough nominations from his parliamentary colleagues. It is recorded that at the beginning, not even he fancied his chances. However, a recent poll has pitted him as the front runner. He is, undoubtedly, the most left-wing candidate and one of the most left-wing politicians of recent times. That is what makes him so divisive, and what provoked Big Tony B into stepping in. In a speech, Blair warned the Labour Party that a move to the left would be disastrous. He said that Labour has “rediscovered losing,” in reference to the recent poll that placed Corbyn ahead in the contest, although after the general election, we should perhaps take the polls with a pinch of salt.
I know for a fact, that some of my colleagues here at Filibuster, and many of my fellow Labour Party members will disagree with what I’m about to say. But I feel that I must say it.
I agree with Tony.
A vote for Jeremy Corbyn is a vote for failure. That was made very clear by the general election. People do not want a more left-wing government. An assumption that they do is purely the theory “that the electorate is stupid.” The Conservatives won the election, and left-wing parties are in a minority, both in terms of seats and vote share. That does not mean that the electorate want a more radical left-wing party. That’s not how it works. Even if we had taken all of Scotland’s seats, and formed a rainbow coalition with other left-wing parties, we still would not have had enough seats to form a government. To win again, we need to win back the “middle England” voters that Tony Blair shepherded to us, the “John Lewis voters” as Tristram Hunt described them. Under Ed Miliband, the party lost a lot of business support and a lot of support from those who believed we were demonising the affluent and ignoring aspiration. Socialist Corbyn would not help regain that support.
Tony Blair hinted in the same speech that with Jeremy Corbyn, history will repeat itself. In 1979, when Labour lost to Margaret Thatcher, the party decided that what it needed was to retreat to its comfort zone on the left so it elected Michael Foot, a man whose legacy is the “longest suicide note in history,” otherwise known as the unusually left-wing 1983 Labour Party Manifesto. It took another fourteen years for the party to come out of the political wilderness. Who was the man that held up the torch? Anthony Charles Lynton Blair. Dragging the party out of 18 years in opposition, he made Labour an electable force once again. This is the man that saved us from irrelevance; perhaps we should heed his advice rather than just sticking our fingers in our ears and shouting him down for his mistakes in the Middle East. Whatever your opinion of Blair, the fact remains, he was good at winning elections and he is a man of much wisdom. We, as a party, must learn from the past. Since 1951, the Labour Party has only formed three governments, none of which were radically left-wing or led by an overt socialist. In fact, the longest of those governments, was the 1997-2010 New Labour government. Surely that counts for something? We must not sentence the party to another stretch in the opposition benches. Jeremy Corbyn would condemn the party to oblivion, once again.
Whilst principles are profoundly important, we cannot let ideology get in the way of success. What use, after all, are our principles, if we are not able to act on them? We do not need blinkered ideologues. We need people who can utilise the merits of centrist policies as well as keeping the integrity and compassion of the left. It is imperative that Labour appeals to the widest amount of people to ensure that we can once again form a government and free the country from the shackles of Conservatism. We can offer a centre-ground alternative but with the conscience of a left-wing party. That is the only way we can win, and make this country a better place. Ideology is dead. Pragmatism is the order of the day.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled that Jeremy Corbyn is on the ballot paper. He is exactly the right person to widen the debate, a debate that we clearly need to have and seriously consider. In what direction do we want to go? Do we want to become just another left-wing opposition party, or do we want to offer an electable alternative? A loaded question, perhaps, but a question that definitely needs answering, and I know what my answer would be.
Perhaps I will be proven wrong. Perhaps, on 12 September, Jeremy Corbyn will be announced as leader and come 2020, we will storm the election. The former, may well happen. If it does, I am doubtful of the chances of the latter.
All in all, I have no idea who will get my first preference in the leadership election; I am yet to make up my mind. I do know, however, that I will do what I feel to be the best thing for the Labour Party, and that means keeping Jeremy Corbyn, as far from my first preference as possible. Ultimately though, it is up to my fellow Labour Party members and supporters, to decide if winning is important to them too.