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Monday, August 10, 2015 

Dear Liz Kendall...

You'll be pleased to know I've just signed up as a supporter of the Labour party, with the intention of voting for you as my first choice for leader.  Most likely however I will be putting Jeremy Corbyn as second choice.  Why would anyone do such a thing when the mutual antagonisms between your wing of the Labour party, dismissively and ever more irrelevantly labelled the Blairite faction, and that of Corbyn, equally derisively labelled the hard left, have broken out into the open as never before during the contest thus far?

First off, we both know that this has been an especially nasty and vituperative campaign.  It reminds more than anything of the Scottish independence debate, when both sides often appeared to be trying their best to scaremonger and appeal to the basest instincts of their supporters.  Some of it has been down to the collective trauma the party and its supporters went through on May the 7th, having been convinced that power of some sort, whether in a minority or a coalition, seemed likely.  The anger, finger pointing, sulking and exchanging of insults has been without doubt part of the process of getting over that crushing disappointment.  You can relate as you've said in a couple of interviews just how despondent you were after the 1992 defeat.

It's also partially though a result of just how lacking the candidates on offer are, and I'm afraid to say I'm including you when I say that.  The latest Private Eye features the spoof headline "WHY JEREMY CORBYN IS WINNING THE LABOUR LEADERSHIP -- IN FULL" with a photo of yourself, Andy and Yvette below, and that's about the most accurate and succinct summary of why we are where we are that you'll find.  No, it isn't fair, but then nor has much of the poison spread if not by your supporters then by those who are most favourable towards you as leader.  Labour party members are not idiots, morons or anything else for at this stage plumping for Jeremy to be the next leader, nor are threats from donors or party grandees to do the "right thing" or else in any way helpful.  The contest does not need to be stopped, nor is the surge for Corbyn down to supporters of other parties, either on the left or on the right signing up.  It's because a party that has just gone through the shock of losing a second election on the trot when it seemed on the verge of something needs to be comforted just as much as it does lectured.  You so far have delivered almost entirely lectures, and also don't seem to be listening to what party members are saying, including when you went along with Harriet Harman's absurd and damaging line on abstaining on the welfare bill vote, and at the various hustings.

This is not to say that some of the actions of Corbyn supporters haven't been self-defeating or stupid.  When someone like Alex Andreou comes up with the formulation that Labour only grew from 1983 and only declined from 1997, and apparently lacks the self-awareness to realise that's how politics worked until the last election, or when a union leader rants about the "Blairite virus", without acknowledging that "virus", like it or not, won three elections, it's difficult not to respond in kind.  My point though is that your campaign equally seems to be saying it's all or nothing - that nothing can be done without that power, that protest of the kind Jeremy has engaged in throughout his time as an MP has little to no role in gaining power.  I agree with you that the longer Labour is out of power the greater the risk the Tories will dismantle the achievements that previous Labour governments have introduced.  At the same time however an opposition must oppose, it must campaign, it must protest - and, what's more, it must reach out to those of like minds who are outside the Labour party to help, even if that means reaching deals whereby Labour does not stand in seats like say, Brighton Pavilion.

You and I both know politics is currently in flux.  The Conservatives have just won an election and yet are so uncertain of their position they're using the language of the far-right against migrants.  The world is changing faster than anyone can properly keep up with or understand, and it leads otherwise sensible people to talk nonsense.  It's no wonder the certainties provided by Jeremy or the SNP seems so attractive.  It's why populism has made such a comeback, seems to offer answers when in fact it offers none, either for left or right.  When voters are wrong, they need to be told so.  When political parties are wrong, they need to understand why.

What ought to be fairly certain by now is why Labour lost.  Although he reaches entirely the wrong conclusions and is a busted flush in any case, Alastair Campbell's analysis is fairly sound.  It was not because of any great love for the Conservatives, and certainly not evidence of support for austerity, regardless of what polls with laughably leading questions suggest.  I suspect and hope you know this.  Labour lost because Ed Miliband failed to connect with enough voters; because the party failed to convince on the economy; and then and only then did other factors, including the scare tactics over the never going to happen Labour-SNP pact come into play.  Ed Miliband failed to become prime minister in the main not because he misread the mood of the nation -- Britain in my view has been and likely always will be a small c conservative country -- it was down to how his arguments either weren't listened to, weren't convincing, or not so much as articulated, especially in the face of a media that was unutterably biased against him from the very beginning.

One of the most attractive things, perhaps the most attractive about your campaign has been the fact the media clearly will listen to you.  They might say extremely unkind things about you, demonstrate just how sexist they remain, and your telling a Mail reporter to "fuck off" for asking personal questions deserves to have received more applause than it did, but they will listen.  To win, Labour has to be listened to without at the same time being dismissed or attacked.  Maybe if you become leader usual service will resume, or rather certainly will as 2020 approaches.  Nonetheless, this is an opportunity that shouldn't be wasted.  And yet, for supposedly being this heir to Blair, or at least to what he was prior to when power went to his head utterly, your campaign has been low key, technocratic and fiddling at the edges.  Your five causes, somewhat unfairly mocked on social media for their vagueness, are more fleshed out once you go behind the banner, but still don't satisfy.  Extending the remit of the low pay commission is not going to worry anyone, let alone set the hustings alight.  You want to end inequality from birth, and yet make no mention whatsoever of how the Tories are set to abolish Labour's child poverty targets.  Is this because you support the removal of child tax credits, which have done so much to help?  If so, what's your alternative?

If you're wondering at this point why then I'm supporting you, it's simple.  I believe you are the most electable candidate of the four on offer.  Like you, I want Labour to win in 2020.  I was, like you were in 1992, devastated by the loss in May.  For the first time I felt the Labour party was not just the least worst of all the options, but genuinely on my side.  Moreover, if there is someone needed to tell the Labour party hard truths, and once the campaign is over there will be, I think you're the best person to do so.  Labour cannot be all things to all people and win.  It cannot fall into the fallacy of believing that the reason all those people who were previously Lib Dem voters or toyed with voting UKIP went back to the Tories was because Labour failed to oppose austerity enough.  To have a chance of winning, the party has to get the 18-34 vote out, and again I think once Corbyn mania passes you'll have the best chance of doing so.  The fact you're not married and don't have children ought to be a plus, not a negative.  That you know how to have fun, admit you smoked cannabis when as you put it, were having fun at college, and have a life outside politics are all things that should count in your favour at a time when grey, career politicians are so disliked.

Liz, Labour is a coalition or it is nothing.  You've said you were Labour by choice, not born into it.  That isn't a bad thing, but some were born into it.  Antagonising them hasn't worked.  To win requires first of all damn hard work, but also the support of those who believe in protest.  Without protest Labour would not have come into existence; without protest it would not exist as it is now.  It's why Jeremy will be my second choice, even if I don't believe for a second he could win in 2020 or even last as leader till then.  It's also why I fear that you will come last.


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When someone like Alex Andreou comes up with the formulation that Labour only grew from 1983 and only declined from 1997, and apparently lacks the self-awareness to realise that's how politics worked until the last election

I've been looking at the figures, & I can't agree with this.

1945 Labour govt: Labour vote went up in both 1950 and 1951 (when they lost)
1951 Tory govt: Tory vote went up in 1955 and 1959, down in 1964 (when they lost)
1964 Labour govt: vote went up in 1966, then down in 1970 (when they lost)
1974 Labour govt: vote went down slightly in second 1974 election, then up slightly in 1979 election (which they lost)
1979 Tory govt: vote went down in 1983 then up in 1987 and 1992, then down in 1997 (when they lost). Labour vote went down in 1983 then up in 1987, 1992 & 1997.
1997 Labour govt: vote went down in 2001, 2005 and 2010 (when they lost)

There's no parallel to Blair's feat of winning three elections on a steadily declining number of votes. It's a weird pattern, unhealthy for political democracy and obviously unsustainable.

Point taken. A major part of any look into why Labour won three successive elections has to be just how useless the Tories were; when David Cameron and George Osborne are the solution, just how hopeless were Hague, IDS and Howard? Andreou's wider argument still doesn't follow though: moving left without convincing voters that doing so is the right thing is hardly a recipe for success, and to claim that somehow all the things the public did like about Miliband and Labour were distracted from by the pink van and immigration mugs is risible.

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