I did not vote for Jeremy Corbyn last year. My knowledge of Militant Tendency (having grown up in Liverpool under their local governance) made it impossible, along with my disagreement with Corbyn on key foreign policy areas. In his year as leader of the party, Corbyn has largely failed to impress me – he has been strategically and tactically weak, his performances in debates are often poor, I don’t think he values/understands the role of the PLP, and some of his policy proposals have been frankly bizarre.
That said, since the moment of his election the PLP has been set against him. They have chosen to attack him rather than attack the Conservatives, they have refused to work with Corbyn’s leadership, and they have shown utter contempt for the party membership in their rejection of the clear mandate granted Corbyn. They have played all their grievances out in public for maximum effect without a care in the world what effect it has upon the party’s reputation. They have cried out that we need a stronger leader, that the ship needs to be steered by a steady hand. But they demonstrate their leadership qualities by blowing a hole in the bow. You’ll understand if instead of cheering that, I grab a lifejacket and contemplate jumping overboard should you take over control.
Additionally, while I did not vote for Corbyn last summer, the simple fact of the matter is that none of the candidates last summer inspired me to believe we had even a chance of winning the next election under their leadership. As it currently stands, I can not in good faith name a single Labour MP that I would trust with the party leadership. This feeling is based on the actions of MPs over the last year in addition to a refusal among the PLP to give an honest appraisal of the Blair Government or to learn the lessons from our past failures.
Let us be clear about this: the Blair Government waged what ought to be considered an illegal invasion of another country on poor ‘evidence’ and without any real planning. Blair himself called the FOI Act the biggest mistake he ever made, and MPs have fought to weaken the FOI Act since it was first introduced. The Blair Government saw power being centralised in most cases aside from the two devolutions of power to Wales and Scotland. Coupled with this was a Tory paternalism towards citizens that is wholly opposed to the empowerment of the common man that the Labour Party was created to support. The Blair Government had an over-reliance on the City, failed to regulate the City, and ignored the needs and experiences of people in Labour heartlands thereby allowing UKIP to encroach upon our support. Finally, the Blair Government had a dogmatic belief in PFI reforms of public services that we will come to regret.
These are all things that the Labour Party needs to separate itself from in order to remain electorally viable. These are all things the Labour Party is dragging its heels to confront. And it isn’t to say I’m not proud of other things Labour did during Blair’s reign. But the Labour Party has only wanted to hear the good about Blair, and refuses any criticism of him as treason to electoral success. This despite the fact that even if you think Blair was unequivocally great, the world has drastically changed since he was in power and his strategies are no longer successful.
Given the current state of the party, I can not in good faith vote for an alternative leader of the party. There isn’t such a person in the House to serve. And that isn’t surprising, because the ghost of Blair has stifled the opportunity for debate and that has created a party devoid of fresh ideas. So we are offered fresh faces, in the hope that we’ll still buy into personality politics, but that isn’t enough.
I do not want to vote for Jeremy Corbyn this summer. But, as things stand, I feel that I must either abstain from voting or I must vote for Corbyn to continue. Because voting in a different face to lead the party will do nothing to open debate and resolve the current conflict. In short, a different leader puts us nowhere closer to power. And the PLP members opposing Corbyn have spent a year damaging the reputation of the party just as much as he has done (and arguably even more).
The biggest argument offered by the PLP is that Corbyn is unelectable, and therefore by having him as leader we are choosing to have principles instead of having power. Unfortunately, too frequently the PLP has given the impression that it wants power and cares little about principles. I expect both. And power without principle is nothing but a Tory Government. The very dichotomy you pose to us party members is not satisfactory (much less inspirational). You are asking us to trust you, but you are doing nothing to earn that trust.
One thing I will say about Corbyn is that I do trust him, broadly speaking (please tie his hands on foreign affairs, though!). He’s earned that in spite of his massive failings. He is genuine and principled. He doesn’t treat the public like fools. That’s more than I can say about the rest of you because you have offered me no evidence by which to do so. And that’s better than voting for nothing, which is what a vote for any other candidate at this stage would be.
The problems we face right now stem from the fact that we never really made peace with the divisions of the past. Our desperation for power meant we left the Labour party to become paralysed by fear. Repeating the mistakes of the past will not make them go away. And that’s why no other leader is suitable right now, because we’re not picking a leader for the right reasons. We’re picking another face but the party is still blind. That does us no good.
I can understand Kinnock’s anger, but it is misplaced. We have failed the “people who yearn to vote Labour but can’t” because we stopped listening. The funny thing is, often, you don’t even seem to realise how out of touch you are with the public. It’s like you live in a completely different world. It’s like you speak a different language. You stopped having faith in us a long time ago, and now you wonder why we’ve lost faith in you. That shouldn’t be too hard to figure out. But it is a prerequisite for giving me a positive reason to vote for a change of leader.
Look, I’ll put it bluntly: I have a relative with a destructive personality disorder. When I see you repeatedly engage in the same manipulative tactics as that relative does, there is no way I want to help you have any more power than you currently have. To do so would make me an irresponsible citizen. Getting rid of Corbyn won’t change that. But if and when you can change that aspect of your behaviour, then I’ll be the first person calling for him to go. Then I’ll be confident that we can resolve our tensions and build a strong platform to inspire the public, and you won’t find a stronger supporter of that.
Don’t play the man Labour, play the ball. We’re not the Tories – let’s leave the foul play to them.