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Thursday, July 16, 2015 

Kendall or Corbyn, either will do.

All of us have at some point needed a friend to tell us to stop being stupid.  Tristram Hunt needs that friend right now.  Not so much to get him to stop his raving about Jeremy Corbyn being "politically and economically bankrupt", but his far more idiotic remarks about Labour in general.  Labour, according to Hunt, is "uneasy" about “the modern landscape of Englishness – of St George’s flags, music festivals, soap operas, Premier League football, shopping, gardening and baking”.  Now, quite apart from how this conflates Englishness with things that are self-evidently not definitively English by any stretch of the imagination, it's also complete tosh. Is it really Labour that's uneasy about all those things, not just perhaps St. George's flags, when the prime minister can't so much as remember what team it is he pretends to support?  Hunt's pal needs to take him to one side and whisper in his ear, "mate, you're talking bollocks, get a grip".

Labour's problems do nonetheless look far deeper than those facing the all but annihilated Liberal Democrats.  For them, the only possible way is up, and whether they had chosen Norman Lamb or Tim Farron it's difficult to see how things could possibly get worse.  Indeed, if the party once again discovers its radicalism, such as by building on the momentum started by Nick Clegg on the liberalisation of our utterly broken drug laws, as Lamb suggested during the campaign, it might just attract those like me.  Those who are frankly utterly bewildered by Labour and its inability to realise that if it's going to keep losing, it might as well lose better.

As such, I'm fairly indifferent as to whether either Liz Kendall or Jeremy Corbyn win the leadership contest, as long as it's one of the two.  I might even persuade myself to sign up as a supporter and do the incredibly daft thing of voting for Kendall as my first preference and Corbyn as my second, just to add to the contradictions.  My politics are fairly obviously far closer to Corbyn's than they are Kendall's, but what both promise is change.  Kendall is not the shy Tory or uber-Blairite of caricature; she's to the right of Ed Miliband certainly, and it would be silly to suggest she wouldn't move the party towards the Conservatives.  She would.  She would also though do much to energise the Labour party, whether it would be through pressurising her to not abandon every policy that was developed under Miliband, or by convincing those still clinging on to to the party more out of sentimentality than conviction that it's finally time to abandon ship.

Corbyn would do much the same.  Again, to see him as the caricatured bearded leftie is foolish: the Tories and the Telegraph can imagine all they like he would doom the party, but the idea he wouldn't be far more centrist as leader than remain the permanent rebel is risible.  A victory for Corbyn would result in pretty much the scenario outlined above, only inverted.  It would electrify the wider left, put the SNP's phony purity into a quandary, and rather than leave the Tories with even more room to move into on the centre, just as likely give them an even bigger false sense of security.  There's little the public enjoys less than a sense of unwarranted triumphalism, and who knows, they might even warm to Corbyn in the same way as Labour supporters have, down to how he says what he thinks.  A novel concept, I know.  Kendall also fits that trait to a certain extent: to go along with Harriet Harman's bungled gambit on not opposing parts of the budget after the response the acting leader got took courage.

Both, in short, would challenge Labour to look at itself and where it has gone wrong.  In that respect, Andy Burnham and Yvette Cooper are the continuity candidates.  You can, as I do, think the Labour manifesto was decent and worth defending as Burnham also does, and at the same time know full well the party must not fall into the one more heave mindset, waiting for the Tories to fuck it all up.  Harriet Harman was right in her motives, as the party must examine why it is has twice been rejected, but remarkably ill-judged in her execution.  Burnham's heart is in the right place, but he hasn't as yet demonstrated what he would do differently; if Ed Miliband wasn't the answer, why go with another safe option?  As for Yvette Cooper, I have absolutely no idea what she stands for.  If I don't, who does?

You can at least see where Tristram Hunt and all the other hysterics over Corbyn are coming from (Labour Uncut has been especially amusing over the past few weeks in this regard), even if many do carry the trait of having been radicals in their youth, and now somehow can't understand why anyone would find such a position attractive or worth a go.  Not many, or rather none of Corbyn's supporters will have gone on University Challenge and answered either Marx, Che Guevara or Trotsky to every question, as David Aaronovitch and his University of Manchester team did, for instance.

All the more reason that we put this nonsense to the test once and for all: let's have either Corbyn or Kendall as leader, let's see how well or how badly they do, and then see if it finally brings home to either the left or right of the party how right (or wrong) they are.  It won't of course, not least because I expect despite the mewling about Corbyn possibly being in the lead, Andy Burnham will in the end triumph and nothing will be solved.  If Labour supporters don't want their party to follow the same path as the Liberal Democrats, standing dead in the centre and getting knocked down as a result, they might want to think again before casting their vote.

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