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Some comradely advice for Andy and Yvette

Labour Leadership Candidates and now they are 4_edited-1In a world that gave us Milifandom, should we be shocked that Jezmania has become a thing, that Camp Corbyn has powered ahead in YouGov’s poll of Labour members? Well, some of us are. And by ‘us’ I mean sections of the Parliamentary Labour Party and self-styled sensible people.

You’ve had ex-Jim Murphy advisor John McTernan castigate Jez supporters as “morons“, to which Margaret Beckett – one of Jeremy’s PLP “enablers” – labelled herself as such for allowing him on the ballot paper. That’s not likely to go down well in Derby South CLP, who just so happened to nominate Jeremy too. And then we’ve had Tony Blair chime in with yet another of his frequent “infrequent” interventions. Out came the same old on the centre ground showing scant awareness that its time as a meaningful filter for understanding politics is long gone, and warnings about comfort zones and the like. All ammo for the Corbyn tommy gun, if you ask me.

Yes, there are palpable senses of panic and most of it emanates from the space around Liz Kendall. After all, it wasn’t supposed to be like this. She was the “fresh face” no one had heard of who’d take the party back to the best of New Labour and start winning again. Her lot definitely was not to languish in fourth place and act as a strange repellent pushing members and supporters to her polar opposite. In the camps of Andy Burnham and Yvette Cooper there isn’t panic, but there is some unease. Both can find solace in their strong CLP showings (73 and 62 to Jeremy’s 76 nominations), but if either are to be leader they need to start upping the game. It’s Corbyn, not Kendall that has set down the challenge and only by responding to it can they win. They can do this in a number of ways. Whether they do or not is up to them.

1) The attacks on Jeremy from friends of Liz are completely and utterly counter-productive. They are hectoring, patronising, and arrogant. You might have thought a campaign placed in distant last might show humility as it talks about winning elections. This, however, is their groove now. Falling short of one of the other two ‘mainstream’ candidates keeling over, they cannot get back into it. Liz is toast. However, it would be a massive error on the parts of teams Andy and Yvette to start taking this rhetoric on as the polls approach. Members have heard this argument for over 20 years. Negative and lesser evil campaigning can have a place, but it need not be from the mouths of Burnham and Cooper. What they need to do is not just campaign in a comradely way, but set out their stalls.

2. Whatever you think of Liz Kendall’s politics, you know where she stands. But as her diminishing machine is jammed on relentless negativity, there’s an opportunity here for Andy and Yvette. Believe it or not, there are some good things in Liz’s platform. Workers on company boards, big wage rises for the care industry, and a reversal of attacks on trade unions immediately spring to mind. She’s left these in her bag while she berates the membership with a megaphone. Why not pinch them?

3. Rather than being this contest’s Mr Angry, Jeremy yesterday set out a big policy announcement on tax, the economy, and public spending. These are worth looking at in some detail. There’s a call for a national infrastructure investment bank and a big clampdown on tax evasion and avoidance. One can quibble about the specifics, but in the grand scheme of things these aren’t particularly “left wing“. Actually, in the context of economic management, by using efficient tax collection to fund infrastructure, Jez is setting out a plan for a fairer and, if you want to be technocratic about it, more rational capitalism. His route to battling the Tories over economic competence is by setting out a different, superior plan for the economy. Andy and Yvette would be wise to take a similar route – the Tories will always out-fight Labour when we fight battles on grounds of their choosing.

4. Andy and Yvette don’t need to go left or right, they need to go big. Take a leaf out of Jez’s book and be bold. Andy has long talked about the need for a National Care Service. Good. Let’s hear more about it. And perhaps have a think about how it can be provided so old folk don’t have to sell their homes to fund it. Yvette has mentioned in passing a National Child Care Service. Brilliant, talk about it some more. It might even be one of those “aspirational” policies middle class parents are going to quite like too.

5. “Our only comfort zone should be the future” were words uttered at yesterday’s Progress audience with his Royal Blairness. Meaningless guff, or is it? As it happens, he does have a point. You might say this is a roundabout way of speaking about hope. The lead in to 1997’s crushing victory allowed Labour to accumulate about it all kinds of hopes. If you look at that year’s manifesto, it was very much a safety-first document. No gaskets were in danger of blowing. All Blair projected was freshness and the promise of an alternative at a moment when any alternative would do.

The next leader has to do better than that, and of Yvette and Andy it’s Yvette who’s marketed her campaign as the most future facing. She has said a few words about hi-tech jobs and occupations that haven’t even been invented yet, but much more needs to be done. Everyone knows the biggest future challenge is climate change mitigation and renewable power – much more needs saying here, especially as – once again – the Tories are burnishing their green credentials by undercutting support for green industries. A few words against fracking would be immensely helpful too. But also, there is a big, big policy challenge on the way: the coming wave of automation set to make large number of low and middle income jobs redundant and their like-for-like replacement by new jobs unlikely. Showing a bit of leadership now on a coming problem will pay dividends later on.

6. On business, both Andy and Yvette would do well to specify that being pro-business doesn’t mean they’re going to bend over backwards for them, which is usually the understanding of Labour members from all wings of the party. For example, Jeremy’s tax and economy pitch is pro-business in the sense British capitalism sans austerity and coupled with infrastructural spending would do far more for productivity and profitability than corporation tax cuts. They need to have a clear focus on security for everyone, not just because it’s the right thing to do, it’s the politically smart thing to do, and is ultimately in the long-range interests of business. The dog-eat-dog capitalism of the Tories stymies business and business opportunities, despite the rhetoric, and can have the perverse consequence of securing them further terms in power more likely.

7. Andy and Yvette need a theme, or themes. We know they’ve both been round the block. Within the terms of mainstream politics, they both have potential to be good leaders of the opposition and potential prime ministers. But why are they in the race? What have they got that makes them the better choice over each other, and Jeremy and Liz? Because of Andy’s flip-floppery this is a bit of an easier ask for Yvette. What the campaign needs is not more “passion” but more ideas. If either want to win, they’re going to have to start talking about them – now.

This article first appeared at All that is Solid

7 Comments

  1. James Martin says:

    Very poor article given it appears to start from the basis that any of these people could be a good leader if only they had better ideas – the fact that 3 of them don’t is not an accident Phil, but a product of their overall ideology so the lack of progressive ideas other than a few headline grabbers each is not accidental.

    Also it’s a poor article because it returns us to the beauty contest view of leadership. If we put aside actual policies for a moment, what at heart is really different about Corbyn? Simple, it is that he is the ONLY candidate from the four of them to have talked about internal Party democracy and restoring decision making to the membership and at the same time rebuild constructive relationships with union affiliates.

    So it is on internal democracy and the reversing of the attacks on it since Blair that sets Corbyn apart as it will allow for the first time in a long time a level playing field for socialists inside the Party to fight for socialist policies and socialist PPCs. Unfortunately Phil seems to believe that policies come only from the top downwards – what utter reactionary undemocratic nonsense!

    1. Mervyn Hyde says:

      Spot on James:

      If Yvette or Andy need advice then they have already lost, by now we should all be thinking they have the vision we can look forward to, instead we know they are the same old same old.

      Yvette is full of the same platitudes that she can convince businesses what they themselves have not done, because to invest in jobs you need a buoyant economy where profits can be made, Yvette thinks all she has to do is use powers of charisma and Business will fall over themselves to help her out.

      Andy has changed direction so many times, contradicting himself; that he has turned himself inside out.

      The reason that Jeremy is winning is because people recognise what he is saying and know he means what he says.

      Senator Bernie Sanders has and still is moving in the same direction as Jeremy, for the same reasons, see if you can see the similarities and then ask why the other three fail to.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9N2THwvS0Ok

      What it all boils down to is common sense, but when your main priority is your own career prospects, then is it surprising that you produce a lack lustre campaign.

  2. swatantra says:

    Excellent article and good homely advice for Andy and Yvette; its about tie they pulled their fingers out and laid out their plans for a better Britain, instead of coasting it. JC may well have plans about tax dodgers but I’ll believe it when I see it; better men than he have tried in vain to nail the Tax Dodger, but its been nigh on impossible; and even his plans on the Economy and Growth have more holes than a collandar. The point is when he gets elected JC is going to need all the support of Andy Yvette and Liz backing him to the hilt so that a United Party has the confidence of the City. Without the Confidence of the City, Labour would be sunk; without the confidence of the business sector Labour will be sunk; and without the confidence of the populace at large Labour will be sunk.
    Incidently, will someone please do something about the ‘Blair Problem’ and tell the guy to shut up, otherwise he’s going to rock the boat to recovery. He needs to retire gracefully to a Monastry somewhere in Tuscany somewhere.

    1. John P Reid says:

      Blair kept quiet during Ed milibands time,maybe it’s the left who backed Ed Miliband,then we lost,who should shut up

  3. Chris says:

    The election seems to boil down to a battle for Labour’s soul, and in that Corbyn has an unbeatable hand. Not only does he want to return Labour to its members (not just its supporters) but he has been around long enough to know what that used to feel like. I would be surprised if Andy’s or Yvette’s campaigns even register that this is a live issue, or, if they do, aren’t actually set against it. This is the yawning chasm that divides Andy from Jeremy, and no amount of openness about policies or interesting ideas, however welcome they may be in setting the tone of the debate, can cover for it.

  4. David Pavett says:

    Andy and Yvette need a theme, or themes. We know they’ve both been round the block. Within the terms of mainstream politics, they both have potential to be good leaders of the opposition and potential prime ministers.

    What does “Within the terms of mainstream politics, they both have potential to be good leaders of the opposition and potential prime ministers” mean.

    I thought that it was “mainstream politics” that most followers of Left Futures wanted to escape from. We have had enough of mainstream politics. It doesn’t work for the great majority.

  5. John P Reid says:

    Why shouldn’t Liz take this advice?

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