One of the ironies of the Labour leadership contest is the dislike of democracy amongst the Labour establishment. We read of rumours that a senior figure wanted to terminate the contest prematurely because it might produce the wrong answer. We hear of conversations between Labour establishment advisers and others over whether they could have a single Stop Corbyn candidate. We hear that some Labour MPs would want to dump the new leader as soon as possible if it is to be Mr Corbyn. We watch and listen to Yvette Cooper and Andy Burnham respond to Mr Corbyn, allowing their agenda to be dragged into discussion of the suitability of the front runner rather than a positive case of why they would offer the best leadership. Yvette Cooper understands she needs to communicate a positive message of a better UK were she to lead, but is being hampered by the absence of a compelling vision and phrase. Andy Burnham just flip flops from one day to the next as he tries to gain the front runner position he seemed to think he had by right.
No wonder people are fed up with aspects of contemporary politics. The Labour leadership discussion exudes a sense of entitlement rebuffed from the mainstream candidates. They look shocked that they are not leading the opinion polls, worried that their meetings don’t attract the following Mr Corbyn attracts, and bemused by the way Mr Corbyn has an army of followers enrolling as £3 voting members when they do not have lots of new people to draft in. They fall back on garnering the endorsement of Messrs Blair and Brown and repeating the establishment arguments that you have to carry on doing things much as they did them in Brown’s government and Miliband’s opposition period. “Credible” is their favourite word, mouthed without any sense of irony. How credible was Labour’s tax and spend strategy? How credible was Labour’s remodelled banking regulation? How credible is Labour’s passive acceptance of all things EU? What does Labour now think of its immigration policies of the last decade? Has Labour found England on a map yet or recognised our flag?
I certainly don’t think Mr Corbyn has the answer to the UK’s problems. I do think he asks difficult questions of the Labour establishment, and highlights the failings of their past economic, foreign and EU policies. It is his willingness to demand change and to point out that it was the Labour establishment that got them into their current mess that clearly appeals to many Labour supporters. Meanwhile the country could benefit from an opposition that was willing to oppose. If only one of them would pledge to oppose the accretions of power and the unwise laws coming from the EU that would liven UK politics up and shine a light onto just how much is now done for us by Brussels. The Opposition should be putting pressure onto the government to get powers back from the renegotiation. They need to confess just how much power they gave away and show some remorse at the limitations now placed on any UK government. The more parts of UK government policy the EU runs, the more the Labour establishment figures look like puppets of Brussels.