And the name of the next leader of the Labour Party is…

Robert Hoskins of Glasgow Cathcart CLP sets out what he thinks are the five tests a successor to Jeremy Corbyn would have to pass, and comes up with a name which some might find surprising.

 

For every political obsessive, a winning general election night for your party is one of the most thrilling, intensely emotional and memorable live events one will ever witness. These are the nights where the political process is stripped of its civilised facade, allowing us mere mortals to participate in the tribal blood sport of going completely bonkers at every seat gained and gloating in the misery inflicted on our opponents.

Watching this gladiatorial contest pan out in front of us – in 650 constituencies throughout the UK – is for me the most riveting live television experience of all time. Watching Tory big beasts who have inflicted misery on millions lose their seats releases a heady dose of unbridled euphoria into the blood stream. The hit from that concoction when it is laced with additional lashings of schadenfreude produces a unique rocket-fuelled high. This high is so intense that its effects cannot be reproduced from the contents of any pharmacy or off-licence.

The 1997 election was one such event, when so many dragons were slain in one night that the resulting euphoria lasted for weeks. June 2017 was right up there as a magical night as well but for different reasons of course. The feeling of impending doom which preceded the gut-wrenchingly stressful wait for the exit poll – which even the Labour movement believed would confirm the party’s demise as an electoral force for a generation – was offset by the unbridled joy of the completely unexpected double whammy of depriving the Tories of a working majority and the added bonus of making an unforeseen comeback in Scotland.

The swing in the 2017 general election was unprecedented. No party in general election history had achieved such a dramatic shift in vote share (from 28% to 40%) during a 7 week period. This wasn’t just any dramatic shift in vote share, this was the largest ever vote share achieved by any leader of the Labour Party since Clement Attlee in 1945. A vote share which removed any question of another challenge to the leadership for at least the lifetime of this parliament.

The sense of utter relief experienced by the Labour movement in general and the Parliamentary Labour Party in particular can only be compared to how the condemned must feel on receiving a last minute pardon from the hangman’s noose. The genuine outpouring of gratitude towards the leader from some of those MPs who had wanted to exploit the predicted thrashing by calling for Corbyn’s resignation was palpable when many joined in a rousing chorus of ”Oh Jeremy Corbyn” on the first day of the new parliament. The fresh mandate of renewed support for the leader resulted in 9 months of PLP discipline where criticism of the leader from the usual dissenting voices was conspicuous by its absence. Opinion polls reflected the turnaround in Labour fortunes by demonstrating a consistent slender lead over the Tories.

However, in the last 2 months, three events have synergised to shatter this new found PLP unity. Firstly, the leadership’s sloth-like response to recognising that anti-Semitism not only exists in the party but is a major problem which needs urgently tackled. Second, Corbyn’s inability to criticise Putin for his part in the Salisbury poisoning of the ex Russian agent Sergei Skirpal and his daughter, which gave the impression that there was a question mark about his commitment to properly protect citizens of this country from foreign attack. And third, the perception that Corbyn was soft on terrorism was compounded by his refusal to criticise Assad for the alleged use of chemical weapons on his own people and his refusal to endorse the subsequent allied bombing of the factories which made these weapons.

These perceived leadership flaws on all 3 issues have emboldened and re-energised the centre left of the PLP to ditch their cease fire and resume their attacks on the leadership. This fresh outbreak of disharmony begs the question as to whether the Labour Party’s broad church might be at breaking point with the apparent refusal of a large section of the PLP to accept or support Jeremy’s leadership. Further speculation has also fuelled the notion that secret plans have been underway for over a year to build a new party which could draw malcontent MPs from both Labour and Conservative parties. According to an Observer article, £50,000,000 has already been set aside by a network of entrepreneurs and philanthropists to make this happen.

These developments got me thinking as to whether there is anybody else in the PLP who could unite the party after Jeremy eventually stands down. Is there a unity candidate out there? If there is, what kind of CV would that MP possess which would be acceptable to both the Corbynista Left and the Blairite/Progress Right?

Here are 5 tests which I think provide the minimal criteria that a unity candidate would have to pass to be acceptable to both wings of the party. Readers may disagree with the following list and may wish to remove or add criteria.

  1. A unity candidate would have to have abstained in the last 2 leadership elections.  Otherwise they would be rejected by the Blairite/Progress wing of the party if they had voted for Jeremy Corbyn, and would be rejected by Corbynistas if they had voted for Burnham, Cooper or Kendall in the first contest, or Owen Smith in the second.
  2. A unity candidate would have had to have abstained or voted against the no confidence motion in Jeremy’s leadership, otherwise they would be rejected by the Corbynistas.
  3. A unity candidate would have to have a voting record which included a willingness at some point to take an interventionist military approach in middle east affairs. Otherwise that candidate would be rejected by the Blairite/Progress wing of party.
  4. A unity candidate would have to be non-aligned with Momentum, Stop the War Coalition or Progress. Otherwise that candidate would be rejected by both wings of the party.
  5. And as if the above criteria weren’t a nigh-on impossible ask for any candidate to meet, the unity candidate would also have to be a credible parliamentarian and an excellent debater and TV performer.

Is there any Labour MP out there who ticks all of the above boxes and would indeed be a credible unity contender for the next Labour Leadership election? Well is there?
Well comrades, I am pleased to tell you – oh yes there is! And an additional bonus, he’s Scottish too!

Step forward Weegie born and bred, Glasgow High School boy and St Andrew’s University graduate – who is the current MP for Brent North – Barry Gardiner!

Barry, who once held junior front bench roles under Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband, ticks all the above boxes and then some, and is in my humble opinion the only possible candidate who would be able to unite both wings of the party. Ironically, for a parliamentarian who is always on the TV and radio, up until the last election he kept a very low media profile and has so far, gone completely under the radar with regards to having his credentials scrutinised for possible leadership material. So here goes…

Either intentionally or by pure coincidence, Barry has played a blinder of a game by positioning himself perfectly for a crack at the leadership by abstaining in both leadership contests. Barry voted against the motion of no confidence in Jeremy’s leadership and also spoke out vehemently against those MPs who voted in favour of it.

Barry is by no means a pacifist and is on record as saying that there are certain circumstances where military action is both necessary and justified. Barry believed that Iraq was one such circumstance and voted in favour of military intervention. But he is not by any stretch of the imagination a gung ho interventionist either. He was one of only thirteen MPs who voted against the bombing of Libya in 2011. He also voted against air strikes in Syria in 2015. He also condemned Assad for using chemical weapons to attack his own people.

Barry has a long-standing record of naming and shaming anti-Semitism in the party, and has condemned Naz Shah and Ken Livingstone for making anti-Semitic remarks. More recently on Question Time he condemned film producer Ken Loach for being ”absolutely wrong” to call for the sacking of those Labour MPs for attending the recent anti-Semitism demonstration.

Barry is unswervingly loyal to the Labour Party, and has taken on the somewhat thankless task of being Jeremy Corbyn’s “attack dog”, defending his position on anti-Semitism, the Salisbury poisoning and on the use of chemical weapons in Syria with aplomb. His most recent outing in front of the cameras was his robust defence of Labour’s local election results.

Barry came out of nowhere to become the star performer in last year’s general election campaign – superbly defending the manifesto and holding the Corbyn line with his robust style of interviewing. To his great credit, he has also passed the gold standard test for any parliamentarian with flying colours when he more than held his own when defending labour’s position on the currency union whilst being cross examined by that forensic slayer of blowhard politicians, Andrew Neil.

Most importantly of all, he is on record as saying he is not an” ista” of any kind, has never been a Blairite, Brownite, Milibandist or Corbynista, and has never been part of any faction or cult. His loyalty is to the Labour Party only.

Whenever that leadership election comes, be it when we are in power or out, Barry has the perfect leadership credentials to heal old party wounds, unite us around a radical populist manifesto and deliver real change for the many not the few.

His election campaign would be markedly different from previous, and every Labour candidate would be proud to have Barry’s face on the front of their election leaflet.

The election night? Well that would be the mother of all election nights wouldn’t it? One which would top them all for being a fiesta of rocket fuelled unadulterated ecstasy and air punching triumphalism. Bring it on – I can’t wait!

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12 thoughts on “And the name of the next leader of the Labour Party is…

  1. Robert,
    You ask “Is there a unity candidate out there? ” The answer is ; no.
    No one can unify The Labour Party because The Labour Party is beyond unification. Your article is testament to that. You see politics as a “tribal blood sport…………….” . ” gloating in the misery inflicted on our opponents” is as important to you as winning.
    You are compelled to write this article regarding the Labour leader and whether there is a credible alternative. This article demonstrates exactly why Labour cannot be unified. You chose to ignore, Labour has a leader. He has seen off a recent challenge and he strengthened his grip. The year after his election the PLP tried to get rid of him. He is determined to see it out to the next GE, as is his right to do so. Those MPs that challenged Corbyn are now threatened with desselection. Corbyn’s constituency actives are determined to remove those MPs as is their right, and are emboldened, especially by events over the last 24 hours in the middle east.
    Desselection will convince many Labour MPs to retire from politics. Others will look at other ways to remain in their chosen profession. Realignment of politics happens, Emmanuel Jean-Michel Frédéric Macron, ex French Solcialist Party leader pulled it off in 2016.
    You look back to 1997 fondly. Your ability to ignore the events that resulted from that ‘win’ does not surprise. The reasons why Labour are now split down the middle has its roots in Labour’s 1997 ‘success’.
    Refusal to take responsibility for past transgressions has repercussions. One is, no lessons are learned and the same mistakes will therefore be repeated. Another is, no one else can trust you.

  2. Robert I to remember the rejoicing in 97 years of tory rule ended nobody remembers Maggies wars the Falklands or Gulf war 1 stop the war was just getting started when it ended . Or that most people said we will have to go and finish it .Blair won 3 elections had many achievements including the referendum that set up devolution but as we know Gulf war 2 came along Iraq no chemical weapons found and all the other wars that have followed including Syria I thought that Ed Milliband got it right when he voted against military action . I thought then and still do the place is like a building site and still is the last thing it needs is more bombs on its people .
    Alec Salmond unexpectedly got a majority at Holyrood . I don’t know if the SNP or Labour have conducted any research into why that happened .
    Then having won Holyrood power Alec had to then go see David Cameron and say I want an Indy ref in 2 years time in 14 due to ill health I was in 2 hospitals and could not help . I voted remain I had no say in and don’t know who came up with better together but I do know my CLP campaigned on our own for remain .
    I did phone polling it was fascinating I did not try to persuade people on how to vote .
    But people did tell me how they were voting and why .They gave me full blast on what they thought of all our leaders and what was happening in their lives .Some of it unprintable and funny .
    The vow 1 remain voter told me she was ashamed we had made it .For me it came late and made no difference for me minds were made up long before the debate .
    On result day I have said before Alec Salmond on probably the worst political day of his life stepped up to announce his resignation with dignity this nipped in the bud the criticism that was starting to come from Gordon Wilson and Jim Sillars .
    Then 1 hr later David Cameron with crass stupidity announced English votes .
    That pulled the SNP together like nothing else .So it appears the SNP have done no research into why they lost have Labour done any into why remain despite a diabolical campaign won.
    And have they done any research into why we lost all our Scottish MPS bar 1 .Again during phone polling I picked up trouble from the start in my area and my MP was active in the area .
    Then the EU ref it never got past immigration all the arguments we are having now we should have had then .Labour are all over the place on it I did not vote for it I did not vote to be poorer Scotland needs immigration that has not been explained to the Scottish public I have heard Polish guys over here doing our jobs usually roadworks I think the NHS will go off a cliff The Scotland did not vote for this is valid where is Labours answer .
    It also has big problems for the SNP they need to deliver .Because of Brexit I am thinking of voting Indy at the next ref if there is one and that’s a big if .
    I voted for Corbyn when he stood and both times he was challenged .At the last Election we returned 7 MPS the buzz throughout the party was electric Corbyn did not put a foot wrong The Liberal and UKIP leaders resigned Nicola took Indy of the table and went into hiding Corbyn the guy who was supposed to resign was flying
    Then discipline broke down amongst our MPS if you have a grievance find a camera discipline has not broken down amongst the members .we are not the ones who have betrayed the party.
    I did not know what Anti Semitism was until I turned on ch4 news one night and got told I am in a anti Semitic party .I had to ask what it is .
    Salisbury I thought Jeremy got it right there are more stories on that coming out today that reek of dirty tricks
    The 5 tests not to sure I want a leader who would come anywhere near passing those tests except no 5
    The Federal state issue I would have voted for it in 14 .With brexit facing us why even raise that now have they even thought the last thing the public will want is more constitutional upheaval
    All the way through the local party in North Ayrshire took the council back from the SNP we have been campaigning on the local issues that matter to people. At the English local elections we did ok but we should have done a lot better instead of fighting each other in front of the cameras .How about saying and doing something about the thousands of jobs at risk from closures mergers and takeovers with decisions being taken in India China and the USA then the London crowd might get peoples trust back until then I will continue to support my local CLP and Richard Leonard

  3. “Barry Gardiner”, as Labour leader! We would be better off with Barry Chuckle.

    For the record;

    Labour “WON” the 1997 election with 418 seats.

    Labour “LOST” the 2017 election with 262 seats.

    Barry Gardiner,….dear oh dear, oh dear…..beam me up Scotty.

  4. Why don’t we talk of this Cross house hospital both my local papers are saying the hospital is going to cut 89 beds due to trying to balance the books. Elderly and orthopaedic services will be severely diminished .The paper says in March the Chief executive wrote to the director of finance for NHS Scotland asking for 23million via a funding loan or brokerage .
    That’s what counts why don’t we ask questions on that .
    That’s what we do and will unite us .

    1. Unfortunately David, that is what Labour does. It demands more and more non-existant money be spent on absolutely everything and call it holding the Scottish Govt to account. I feel fewer and fewer people are giving it any credence.

      If they ever do get back into power in Scotland, the huge raft of rhetoric and false promises they have constructed to get them there will rapidly founder on the rocks of reality and finish the Party as a credible force for decades.

  5. You are third to Ruth the mooth’s tories in Holyrood and have seven MPs, and you think that’s a comeback? I’d say it’s a death rattle.

  6. Thank you for your comment Bungo
    Apparently according to their website they borrowed 25 million in a brockerage loan and cant pay it back .
    So 89 beds are to go mainly affecting Elderly and Orthopaedic .
    The website also says they are still planning to close the Cancer Centre in Ayr .
    I was at the health board public meeting held in Crosshouse Hospital last October in the presence of Shona Robison .A Cancer patient raised the proposed Closure of the Ayr Cancer then He asked why it was being closed he was told by the suit in the chair it was on safety grounds .
    The patient told them the safety grounds were they did not have enough staff to man it .
    The reason he knew he was a patient in the hospital in Ayr and overheard the staff talking about it they had not seen him .
    The suit told him he was correct .
    So I have to ask are the health boards fit for purpose .
    As far as I am concerned Labour should always hold the Government to account on things like this . And will

    1. It’s not Health Boards or govts that are the problem David, it is the management culture that causes the problem.

      The Tories created the problem in the 80s and 90s when they tried to make the NHS behave like a private market place (the internal market), thereby fracturing the NHS into myriad competing “franchises” with myriad new management teams all trying to provide the same services, instead of each Health Board having one management team providing services in a more logical form.

      Labour came in and, instead of taking a machete to the bloated mgt structures, allowed them to remain in place, albeit under an overarching regional mgt team (even more bureacracy). Not only that, they then empowered these bloated mgt structures and charged them to “change” the way the NHS provided the services. This was when things really started to go wrong. It was then that “change” became the currency of mgt and any manager that isn’t constantly changing things has their worth questioned. Constant “change” is expensive, rarely saves any money and demoralises staff.

      On top of that, under Labour, managers were categorically told NOT to take the views or terms and conditions of staff into account when deciding on change. This has been catastrophic for staff morale and has led to the staff shortage problem with recruitment and retention becoming ever more problematic.

      The convergence of a bloated mgt structure desperately trying to justify its existence by creating a chaotic environment of constant change with an almost complete disregard for staff, with Tory austerity limiting budgets, is at the heart of the current problems within the NHS throughout the UK. The SNP have done a pretty good job of mitigating the worst of Tory austerity, resulting in the Scottish NHS performing far better than its counterparts in the rest of the UK, but it has done little to counter the culture of “change for the sake of change” among managers.

      I can understand why politicians (especially SNP politicians) have fought shy of tackling this problem as a hostile opposition and media would rip into them about cutting jobs in the NHS no matter what the context. That’s why I don’t blame the SNP for the current problems and why I feel the other parties need to shoulder their share of the blame.

  7. Thanks for your comment Bungo
    All of what you say I hope you have said to your union rep local politicians etc .
    It just confirms my opinion .The problem is now that out of control we need I think to have all parties medical reps patient reps working together take the NHS out of political control I am not bright enough to come up with a plan but just chucking money at it for me is not the answer

    1. I am the Union Rep David. I am faced with this problem and it’s consequences each and every day of my life. And yes, it is demoralizing.

  8. Robert,
    Is your Barry Gardiner the same one as I saw on the Marr show yesterday? That wee lassie that idid the interview tore him apart. I think you need to go back to your list and I think I can help you there. Before you start, delete all the men.

  9. Thanks for your comment Bungo
    Ouch that’s me told haha.
    I am a Rangers supporter I think you said in another blog you are a Motherwell man if so what happened on Saturday in the Cup Final after a certain wedding haha

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