A few thoughts on the Labour leadership issue

Let me lay out my lefty bona fides so you know where I stand in relation to Corbyn, Eagle, Burnham and the rest.

I would raise taxes tomorrow: 2% on the basic rate, 5% on the higher. I would renationalise the railways and the post office. Trident would be scrapped and not replaced. Weekly payments to the sick and disabled and unemployed would rise. Mental health care would be reformed and, for the first time, properly funded. I would establish a national pharmaceutical company, and if it were possible, which it probably no longer is, better still if that company were Europe-wide.

OK, are we all satisfied that I’m a socialist? Good.

Get Corbyn out. Now.

This is not personal and it’s not about the moral purity of the Labour party. It’s about respecting the fact that who is in power has an immediate and measurable on effect of the lives of everyone in this country. Labour and the Conservatives no longer have a duopoly on control of government in the UK, but at a national level, the Labour party can dethrone the Conservatives and no other party can.

I have no time for anyone who tells me that a centrist Labour government is no different to a Tory one. Of course it is. The reviled New Labour government of the reviled Tony Blair still brought down hospital waiting times, established Sure Start, raised benefits and introduced the minimum wage. These achievements made life measurably better for millions of people, and they’d not have happened under the Tories*. If a Blairite Labour leader were to take over from Corbyn tomorrow and win a general election later in the year, and then were to retire to his or her office and spent the next five years asleep, they would do less damage to the social fabric than a Tory government.

This is not about Jeremy Corbyn. Corbyn seems to be a good man, but his agenda is well to the left of the British political mainstream and so, to be electable, he has to convince a large swath of voters whose instincts are to the right of his own. To do that he’d need charisma and oratorical skills on a level with Obama or Martin Luther King. I see no evidence in the past year that Corbyn has convinced anyone who didn’t already agree with him.

Enough. He goes. The only thing that counts is winning general elections. We on the left have a moral duty here. Each of us only has one life, and every day the lives of millions of people are ruined by the policies of this government. They don’t get a do-over. Each day they spend in poverty, each day without housing, each day without welfare, is a day they’re not getting back. Only three days ago, the UN released a report damning the social inequalities in the UK that are being worsened by austerity. These are dark times if you’re unemployed, or physically or mentally ill, or if you work in a low-paid job with little job security. We as a people failed to do anything about it in the election last year and we as a people made everything a hell of a lot worse last week.

There is no room for sentiment here. The first step towards undoing some of this damage is to unite the Parliamentary Labour Party so that they might turn themselves into an effective election-winning machine. If there emerges a candidate from the left of the party who also happened to burn with an infectious sense of belief and righteousness, and who could convince others through their charisma, the power of their oratory and the example that they themselves set in their own lives, I’ll be whole-heartedly behind them. I hope that there is such a person. But if there isn’t,  and the strongest candidate to emerge holds views to the right of my own, so be it. I’ll swallow that. Because it’s not about me. That’s what socialism means, for heaven’s sake.

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*I make this argument not because I have any love for Blair or supported him over Iraq. But you take your opponents’ strongest arguments on, not their weakest, and there’s no doubt that Blair’s is the most problematic Labour government there has been and exhibit A for the prosecution who’d rather have a “proper” Labour party in opposition than a centrist one in power.

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