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Tuesday, August 18, 2015 

"Self-improvement is masturbation. Now, self-destruction?"

(Yeah, I can quote Fight Club as well.  Oh, and incidentally Liz Kendall's campaign did get round to emailing me today.

Of all the ill-judged and misguided interventions in the Labour leadership contest, David Miliband's is without question the most tone deaf.  He name checks both Chuka Umunna and Tristram Hunt, two of the figures who have most helped push party members towards Corbyn with their intemperate outbursts, repeats the nonsense that Labour lost because his brother retreated from the true Blairite way,  and then advises that Britain could become an effective one party Conservative state.  Well yes, it certainly could if whoever becomes leader follows the D Miliband path of reform, reform, reform.  It's either reform or Conservatism, folks, it's simple as that.

Except of course it isn't.  To portray Jeremy Corbyn's platform as pure nostalgia, the failed policies of the past, a wholehearted return to the 80s is a caricature and no more comforting for it.  Whether you like the idea or not, the Corbyn proposal for people's quantitative easing offers an alternative to austerity that none of the other candidates have come close to matching.  Miliband responds to the retaliatory accusations that the other three merely want to reheat what worked in the 90s by claiming nothing could be further the truth, only to produce a list of policies, or rather "ideas" almost indistinguishable from the ones that became increasingly less popular in each successive election.  Only the references to secular stagnation and a low-carbon European energy future mask what is an incredibly familiar programme, complete with the same old euphemisms.  What else is the reference to "combat humanitarian catastrophe where it occurs" other than a call for more liberal interventionism?  Miliband is clearly referring to Syria, rather forgetting that it was our invoking of the responsibility to protect in Libya that has had just a big an impact on the numbers seeking asylum as anything else.

If there's one message that each of the successive figures from the past have wanted to drill into the newly signed up supporters, affiliates and members, it's that Labour has to be a party of government, not protest.  And yet the irony is that Jeremy Corbyn has been by the far the most leader-like of all the candidates.  He's declined to respond in kind to all the various insults both he and his supporters have received, has repeatedly set out in detail exactly what his policies would entail, in complete difference to the other three, and when confronted with the accusations of being acquainted with antisemites has given straight answers, if not at the first time of asking.

The contrast with Andy Burnham and Yvette Cooper, who have spent the past day fighting like two tomcats in a sack could not be more stark.  Cooper, having seemingly let all the various transfers of allegiance from the those on the right of the party go to her head, demanded that Burnham withdraw both because he clearly can't be trusted to properly oppose Corbyn and only she can possibly win.  Considering Cooper's strategy from the outset was to say almost nothing in the slightest bit challenging and in the end triumph on the basis of second preference votes, her extremely late in the day conversion to attacking Corbyn head on is just a little rich.  Besides, regardless of Burnham's similar lack of anything remotely approaching conviction, the next leader will need to work not just with the various factions within the party but also with those who have been enthused by Corbyn.  To regard him and those who've supported him as beyond the pale completely, as Cooper and Liz Kendall apparently do just isn't going to work.  Corbyn probably won't want a shadow cabinet position, but there's no reason why he couldn't play a similar role to the one say Jon Cruddas does currently.  He certainly couldn't do any worse, as the latest batch of risible research commissioned by Cruddas shows.  Prospectors, pioneers and settlers, fuck me sideways.

As the man formerly known as Anton Vowl tweeted, if we didn't know it before, there are an awful lot of arseholes in the Labour party.  Arseholes with remarkably thin skins, it should be added.  Some of the same people who have gone around shouting about Marxists, Hezbollah and Hamas lovers, or simply called anyone thinking of voting for Corbyn idiots or in need of a heart transplant are it turns out really quite hurt when they're called Tories by anonymous people on the internet.  Liz Kendall took to moaning about this at the weekend, and repeated her message today.  To be fair, Kendall has not herself been one of those going around insulting people, even if those who are or at least were supporting her were in the vanguard of doing so.  Calling those on the right of the party Tories is not helpful, but nor is it as Kendall claims, an "enormous strategic mistake".  An enormous strategic mistake is to carry on acting like spoilt children, spitting out dummies when things don't go your way.  For Yvette Cooper's campaign to repeatedly play the sexist card when Burnham's has as far as we know simply been stating the facts as we know them, that she can't win, is exceptionally low politics.

It's also indicative of the hole the "mainstream" of the party has dug itself into.  Their hope was to have a simple, straightforward contest where all the candidates agreed with the Tory and right-wing media consensus on why Labour lost, elect whoever emerged on top and go from there.  This fell apart not with Corbyn's entry into the contest, but when Harriet Harman declared the party would not oppose the government's welfare bill.  Everything that has happened since has its root in that unbelievably damaging capitulation, an act of self-harm from a party leadership that claims it has to be in power in order to protect the vulnerable.

Any doubts about Corbyn, and they are many and myriad, have been overlooked both because of those making them, whether they be the Decents that ignore the realities of the Middle East and cheer lead for Israel regardless of how it acts and who have been making the same hysterical arguments for years,  the ex-party figures that have simply lost any influence they once had, or down to how the other three candidates are just so woefully lacking in every regard.  Rather than accept they might have made any mistakes, their reaction has been to turn on each other, to the point where it looks as though regardless of who wins, the first task will be to rebuild trust and relationships that should never have broken down in the first place.  Rather than welcome new members the major response has been to treat them with suspicion if not outright contempt.  Rather than work with whoever the new leader is, many have said they will refuse to serve under one person or another, while others are plotting practically in the open.

The reason the Conservatives as a party have barely bothered to comment on the woe of their rival is they don't need to.  Labour's self-destruction these past few weeks has been completely unnecessary and all the more damaging for it.  Nothing makes a party look less electable or serious than the recriminations that probably haven't as much as started yet.  Absolutely nothing I've seen or heard, regardless of all the entreaties and pleas has made me alter my view that the party needs either Jeremy Corbyn or Liz Kendall to win, if only so that all the bad blood can be purged in one go, however it is that turns out.  If it means a split in the party, frankly so be it.  The quicker the left gets itself organised the better.  This didn't have to happen, but now that it has it might as well come to a conclusive end.  Voting for either Cooper or Burnham is only going to prolong the agony.

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