THE Labour Party is still reeling from the shambolic manifesto leak.
I don’t suppose we ordinary voters will ever get to the bottom of exactly what happened, but one thing is clear: Labour is not looking like a party we can trust with one confidential document, never mind with the business of government.
Unavoidable and unfortunate security oversight? Machiavellian PR exercise designed to put leader Jeremy Corbyn on every front page? Or even a possible “betrayal” by right-wing Labour MPs who seek to bring him down?
For ordinary voters it matters little, to be honest. Unless there is an immediate and impressive about-turn in Labour support, Corbyn has scant chance of becoming Prime Minister on June 8 and putting it all into practice.
Labour is between 15 and 20 per cent behind in the opinion polls. This manifesto debacle has twisted the knife in deeper. It proves that Labour has never been so disunited and in such disarray. And, frankly, the things it promises for the country in this doomed manifesto suggest a party ready only for running a Student Union. The leak has caused massive repercussions, but what about the content of the manifesto itself? Since when did spending billions of pounds of public money pass for pragmatic carefully-considered political ideas?
Here’s a hundred reasons why a Labour government would send the country into colossal debt for generations and possibly jeopardise our international security whilst we’re at it. Nothing solid on education, the NHS or immigration. Labour’s systematic failure to get to grips with the latter issue, especially, has cost the party dearly.
What a quandary for voters. If you’re a moderate Labour supporter, or even just believe in the concept of a decent Opposition in the House of Commons, what to do? There’s just one mantra for these dark days. Look beyond the leader. It’s the only way to see past the car-crash waiting in the wings.
Corbyn is still insisting that he will remain in charge, whatever happens. He might not be so smug on June 9. However, let’s not tangle ourselves up in who may or may not be vying to be his successor. The Labour obsession with a “strong” leader who can “unite” the party has been a major factor in its recent undoing. Until an individual comes forward with the reforming zeal and ruthless organisational tactics of Tony Blair, the modern Labour Party will never pull together.
Whatever you might think of his record in government, Blair took the time to understand Labour voters and courted those who could be seduced into supporting the party for the first time.
Blair spent years in the shadows, planning his New Labour vision with a hand-picked and very able bunch of political allies. Unfortunately for Labour, a leader with this capability comes along roughly once a century.
In any case, the list of possible leadership candidates so far is small and by no means declared. Moderate Barnsley Central MP, Dan Jarvis, has repeatedly held his fire. Yvette Cooper, seeking re-election in Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford, is the bookies’ favourite, but came third in the last leadership fight, Meanwhile Andy Burnham has gone off to be mayor of Manchester.
The fissures tearing Labour apart go deeper than a battle for the figurehead. With Corbyn in charge, the disconnect between the ruling left-wing elite and the concerns of millions of natural Labour supporters has widened into a chasm. The most sensible strategy for the party itself would be go back to the grassroots and rebuild from the bottom up. For our region this is doubly important. Yorkshire is home to some of the ablest MPs who might indeed take over the helm one day. And we also remain one of the areas where Labour can still rely on a relatively reliable degree of natural support. Here’s the plan then.
Labour candidates must first of all be honest about the shortcomings of their party and its hapless leader. Blind loyalty will buy them no favours on the doorstep. Neither will saying one thing whilst thinking another.
The party is in meltdown. There is nothing left to lose. If your local Labour candidate doesn’t believe in Corbyn, they should be made to say so.
The least prospective MPs can do is to be honest with those whose vote they seek. This will also reignite that vital connection between electorate and political elite.
Let’s not forget the bigger picture. The next Labour leader, and the one after that, has got to come from somewhere. If we don’t put our faith in those capable of going far now, the gene pool will evaporate. Just look at the problems afflicting the Lib Dems, with only eight MPs across the country.
Labour, a proud and historic movement, can do better than this and must. For now, the party’s immediate problems are myriad and go far beyond a catastrophic manifesto leak. The start of the solution is simple, however. Brave voters must look beyond the leader, support their local candidates and hope for a more positive future.