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Thursday, July 23, 2015 

"It's not difficult, Manuel. This is not a proposition from Wittgenstein."

"It should not have been complicated to oppose the bill."  No, it shouldn't.  Absolutely nothing about Labour's meltdown this week has been complicated.  Jeremy Corbyn, who said those words about the welfare act, is not complicated.  Nor is his appeal.  He's a left-winger daring to say left-wing things to a left-wing party.

Remarkably, this has been enough to expose Labour for what it has become.  Mary Creagh on Newsnight last night said it was "nostalgic, narcissistic" that a few MPs donated their nominations to Corbyn to get him on the ballot in the interests of a wider debate.  Chuka Umunna says some are acting like "petulant children" for even considering supporting Corbyn.  John McTernan said the MPs who got Corbyn on the ballot are morons.  Tony Blair says anyone whose heart leads them to support Corbyn should get a heart transplant.

A left of centre party that finds itself this discombobulated, this angry, this self-righteous about a socialist deigning to broaden its leadership contest is in danger of digging its own grave.  It seems absolutely nothing has been learned from the party's all but demise in Scotland.  There an upstart party that is on most measures to the right of Labour stole its clothes, struck a left-wing pose and swept the board.  Rather than consider why the country came so close to voting for independence or understand that not distancing itself from the Tories had been an incredible error, the response was to do the equivalent of say no you can't, and vote in a right-winger as the new party leader.

You can't go on saying no you can't and keep expecting everyone to demur.  Labour's membership has been told no you can't for over 20 years now.  In 2007 it didn't even get a choice.  In 2010 it wouldn't have made the slightest difference if the vote had swung David rather than Ed Miliband's way.  The end result would have almost certainly been the same.  Maybe there would still be a Tory-Lib Dem coalition or a Tory minority government rather than a small Tory majority, but Labour would not have won.  In 2015, a membership once again told by the Very Serious People at the top of the party that they are idiots, morons, children for even thinking of taking the party back to the 80s by making a left-winger the leader are saying fuck you, yes we can.

The lack of self-awareness, the lack of self-doubt, the lack of the slightest consideration of whether they might be in the wrong rather than it being everyone else is staggering.  I could understand it more if rather than just abusing Corbyn, repeating the back to the 80s non-argument and insulting all and sundry who think Labour should be better than this (hah), the rest of the leadership candidates were making a distinctive case for themselves.  I could respect the ridicule if at the same time they were admitting the party needs to think long and hard about where it has gone wrong, to listen and learn from both the grassroots and voters in general, to realise that the only way to recover from this position is to have as wide-ranging a debate as possible.  Instead, what's happened has proved John Harris exactly right: a week after the defeat he wrote that he doubted the Labour elite had "the wit or the humility" to accept it needed to do precisely that.

This is in fact to be unfair to Liz Kendall.  She and Corbyn both have a position.  She would make the best leader out of the four, and almost certainly feels compelled by the vacuum on offer from both Burnham and Cooper to play further to the right than she really is.  She too though won't take Corbyn on directly, won't argue her case on her terms, and instead mouths the "disaster" mantra.

It really is as simple as this: if you can't convince the party's own membership that you have a better chance of winning than a socialist stuck in a time warp, as the Blairites are so insistent on portraying Corbyn as, how on earth do you expect to convince the wider electorate?  If you're this scared of debate, this averse to so much as accepting a socialist should be on the ballot on 2015, you should be asking yourself not just what you're doing in the Labour party, but doing in politics at all.  When Frank Field, Frank Field of all people, while still not accepting Corbyn has widened the debate by being on the ballot, says that he hopes one of the other candidates "has actually got both the physical courage and the intellectual clout to start that debate", you know the party is in trouble.  Kendall, and I hope it is Kendall despite everything, still has 7 weeks in which to actually do something other than carp and indulge in ad hominem attacks.  It might just be an idea to get started right away.

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In what way does Liz Kendall differ from those at the more 'moderate' (if such a thing exists) end of the conservative party? Burnham and Cooper look to me like they don't really believe all the right wing bull they are spouting whereas our Liz appears to be a true believer....

Well, she wants worker representation on company boards for a start and wants to reform social care (the cap on which the Tories have just postponed until 2020) for just two things. Burnham to me gives the impression that he'll say anything if it helps get him elected, while Cooper just doesn't believe a word that comes out of her mouth full stop. Kendall isn't great, don't get me wrong, she's just the most plausible of a very poor bunch.

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