by Cary Gee
Friday December 13 and a Tory majority is delivered, which has to go down as the shittiest birthday present ever!
Still, at least the upcoming leadership election only features candidates from our own side. We can't lose. Surely.
Yet several days before either had declared their candidacy a YouGov poll placed Keir Starmer comfortably ahead of Rebecca Long-Bailey in the eyes of Labour Party members. I've yet to find a single member who was canvassed but already this election is being presented by the media at least, as a battle between left and right, when in fact we should be making sure it is about Labour's ability to hold Johnsons' feet to the fire and defeat the Tories in 2024.
'We need a socialist leader' writes Long-Bailey in Tribune. (Many years ago I tipped Lisa Nandy as a future leader in Tribune but for some inexplicable reason Tribune's archive seems to have been deleted). Well yes, but given that Labour is a democratic socialist party I would hope that all potential leaders, even Keir Starmer who wears the permanently surprised look of someone who has suddenly remembered he is not a Tory, would subscribe to a similar view.
What we don't need, is another 4 years of internecine sniping of the 'my principles are holier than yours' variety. In realpolitiks, there is such a thing as having too many principles and eventually, rather like Corbyn's long-held scepticism concerning Europe, you will forget where you left them, trip over them in the dark and fall flat on your face.
On the subject of Brexit, (and it has been said that a man who is tired of Brexit is tired of life) any kind of policy would have left us better placed to challenge Johnson's assertion that the opposition alone was responsible for the failure to deliver Brexit, despite the fact that Johnson himself, along with the ERG, (now Cabinet) voted three times against May's (marginally) preferable Brexit in the first place. For Johnson it was never about 'getting Brexit done', It was about creating a vacancy. Our own election must be all about slamming the door shut and delivering his P45.
Not only did agreeing to an election we were never likely to win let down party members including the many bloody decent and hard-working candidates who lost their seats, it let down the millions of people who need the protection of a Labour government. No one expressed this better in the white heat of election night than a heartbroken Jess Phillips, who, quite frankly, does not deserve the opprobrium that has been heaped upon her since. We should be better than that. I too was heartbroken, still am, but onwards and upwards.
If we discount the candidacy of Clive Lewis, who reminds me too much of a matchday mascot chosen to conduct the coin toss and get play underway, we are left with an array of candidates, any one of whom is capable, if we as a party allow them to, of rebuilding the Labour party as a force for good. Vital in every sense of the word.
One way to inject new life into a moribund system would be a firm commitment by our next leader to extend suffrage to 16-year-olds, so that they get to vote on the issues that will inevitably affect their lives the longest. 60 years ago, in his inauguration speech, JFK spoke of 'passing the torch to a new generation'. In reality all our young people can do is watch as the old burn the torch at both ends and set fire to the house. All declared candidates for the leadership support extending the franchise. Ensuring it's at the heart of our next manifesto must be a priority for any future leader and will certainly be a consideration when it comes to casting my vote.
A cursory glance at Twitter's purview reveals that the blame game is just beginning, and with each new candidacy a new front opens up; Anti-semitism is alive and well (though I doubt whether the account holders in many cases are actual party members), colleagues are demonising colleagues, Jess Phillips is the Great Satan and George Galloway 'told us all so' in the first place. Please just shut up! What we need is a period of reflection. Not recrimination.
This election is the first of any kind I can remember in which I've genuinely yet to make up my mind who to vote for; Which means either (if you believe the twitter shit-storm) I'm vacillatory, irresolute and uncommitted, or that I genuinely hope my vote will increase the likelihood of seeing another Labour government returned in my lifetime and will do all I can, regardless of personalities, to ensure that happens. Far from beating a retreat into a navel-gazing netherworld of self-flagellation this election presents an opportunity to reduplicate our efforts to build the kind of Britain we all want to live in. After all, from next month, we're on our own.
One thing we can all agree on is that Jeremy Corbyn, a decent and honourable man, was denied a fair hearing, or indeed any kind of hearing by the right-wing media. Let's not allow our leadership election to be scripted by a press that wants nothing more than to see us fail. If we do we're almost certainly heading, in five years time, for Friday 13, part 2.
Cary Gee is a former contributor to the New Statesman, Tribune, trade union officer, and LGBT campaigner.