So Jeremy Corbyn looks set to become the new leader of HM opposition. Today’s comments from senior Labour folk along the abc (anyone but Corbyn) lines seem likely to simply help Corbyn. After all, which Corbyn supporters are going to listen to Alistair Campbell, for goodness sake? And this doesn’t apply just to the 53% of first preference voters Yougov reckons JC has. It also applies to the folk Andy Burnham has kept on side by swinging so far left that his programme is pretty much old Labour too – those folk will go to Jeremy if and when Andy is knocked out (as will some from the other two candidates). Frankly, when Alistair Campbell is encouraging everyone to vote for a programme which looks like it came right out of the 80s (i.e. Andy’s) then you know the game is up.
But here are a few thoughts that I haven’t read in the papers (Maybe I’ve missed them…), for interest and context.
Barry Sheerman MP came out yesterday to say that the election should be stopped because the voting system put thorough by Ed Miliband is a farce designed to allow entryism. Barry’s daughter, Madlin Sadler, is David Miliband’s adviser at Thunderbirds HQ in New York, having helped run his leadership campaign. Barry took David on as an intern years ago at the behest of David’s Dad, Ralph, and so the world turns. Sheerman’s attack will be heartfelt, he isn’t simply a cipher, but obviously follows the line coming out of New York from a certain defeated brother of a former Labour leader who sees the present Labour cataclysm not as a crisis but rather as an opportunity…
Of course, the entryism Sheerman’s quite right about was the price of Len McLuskey and Unite’s sudden quiescence after the Falkirk debacle. In effect, the Labour Party dealt with the allegations of entryism in Falkirk by simply building it into the party rules and encouraging it. That seems a fairly large ‘oops’ now, but of course Andy and Yvette were both in the shadow cabinet so they’ll know all about how it went down. Tom Watson, set to become Labour Deputy Leader, is the closest of all to Unite, and yet he will not be a pushover for anyone, least of all the new leader. In many ways, Watson will be close to being the de facto leader.
Andy Burnham has, I notice, said that he will not accept the 10% pay rise MPs have been awarded. Powers over MPs salaries do not lie with MPs, of course, so MPs up for that particular populist gesture will have to arrange for a proportion of their salary to be paid to a charity, say, then be prepared to make that evidence public. More interesting, though, is whether the four candidates would, as leader, take the total £130k on offer for the person that post.
Most politicians will leave this question alone, since they’re either perfectly legitimately in receipt of extra pay for their ministerial, opposition chief whip or House of Commons roles as committees or what-have-you, or have been in the past. Mind you, Ed Miliband actually argued for a ban on MPs earning extra on account of their need to devote all of their time to their job as MPs – while accepting an additional salary for his own extra work. The idea – in the event of a Labour win – of a 100 or so ministers and committee chairs in receipt of extra pay telling back benchers it’s unacceptable to earn anything extra always struck me as a hilarious thought.
Anyway, I can’t imagine JC accepting a penny extra so I guess that leaves Andy to lead the way and say either that he’d take the money but not allow his back-benchers to earn extra or to go the whole hog and follow through on his populist ‘refusal’ of the pay rise. I mean, refusing a 10% pay rise while accepting one of over 100% would seem odd, wouldn’t it? Ah, daft populist gestures…
Oh, and, you know, The Scottish Labour Party (if it’s still allowed to call itself that.. see last para here) will announce its new leader on 15 August. Perhaps even they will come out with a better campaign slogan than the Scottish Liberal Democrats’ – no kidding – that they are Scotland’s Militant Tendency for the ‘reasonable person’. But if overwhelming bookies favourite Kezia Dugdale MSP wins, her wholesale condemnation of a putative Corbyn leadership will leave her a perceived anti-far left politician executing the will of that very far left. Oddly, the far-left in Scotland will be using the mandate of the UK leader, not the notion of Scottish autonomy, to bolster their position. I doubt Dugdale can hang on after defeat at the 2016 elections, and that is exactly what opponents like Neil Findlay MSP are planning for. That ‘brilliant idea’ to go left of the SNP….