Are the Corbynites finally losing their grip on Labour?
BY TOM HARWOOD
At first glance, the signs look positive; the Corbyn Project’s protege Rebecca Long Bailey is trailing behind in the leadership polls, former Respect Party Leader Salma Yaqoob failed to win Labour’s West Midlands Mayoral selection battle (despite Momentum backing), and over the weekend even Jeremy Corbyn’s own local constituency party backed Sir Keir Starmer QC over any other candidate.
All, however, may not be as it seems. Whilst the Labour Membership is clear it wants to move on from the tainted image of Jeremy Corbyn, it is far less obvious that this is a party that is done with Corbynism.
Not a single leadership contender can bring themselves to repudiate the party’s extreme policy agenda of the last half decade. The arguments are familiar to anyone who can bare to endure more than five minutes of Labour leadership debate; that the policies didn’t cut through, the narrative wasn’t clear enough, the emphasis and packaging were all wrong.
The message is clear. Every candidate intends to stick with the ‘radicalism’ of Corbynism whilst tightening up the packaging. Under the leadership of Starmer, Long-Bailey, Nandy, or Thornberry the Labour Party would be one intent on returning to the soundbites, pledge cards, and aesthetics of New Labour – just with none of the electable policy agenda.
The only reason Islington North Constituency Labour Party has felt comfortable in backing Sir Keir Starmer QC is that he has run his campaign determined to “not trash” the last five years of Corbyn leadership. He has not criticised a single Corbyn economic policy, suggesting that under him the Labour agenda will still be one of expropriating private assets, and levelling down by hurting the successful.
There are two ways to aim for a more equal country, and it’s clear that Labour’s vision will remain one of bringing the successful down. The Conservatives now have a golden opportunity to contrast this politics of envy with an alternative vision of hope. Not one of tearing down the richest but one of building up the poorest. Labour seeks to equalise outcomes by attacking those who have done well. Conservatives should make clear they will instead equalise opportunity by lifting up the worst off.
These are the two visions that the country is still faced with – levelling up with the Conservatives, or levelling down with the Labour Party.
Tories should seize this moment with tax cuts for working people coupled with pro-enterprise moves like scrapping the Factory Tax and shaking off needless EU red tape. Only free market moves like these will help deliver the kind of dynamic economy where everyone can do well – not just the big London based businesses with the capacity to navigate the tangled web of government regulation.
The Conservative Party has rightfully sat out of interfering in the internal mechanics of the Labour Party. I’m told by people in CCHQ this is partly because they can’t decide which leader would be worse. However, sitting out shouldn’t mean staying silent.
It’s clear that when the contest is finally over the Labour Party will attempt to repackage its dangerous Corbynite agenda in a flashier suit, sicker style, and maybe even a national anthem if we’re lucky. The Tories have to call out all the candidates for their identikit continuity Corbynism before it’s too late.
Tom Harwood is an award-winning journalist and commentator. Follow him on twitter: @tomhfh