Jamie Glackin says when a Labour leader and his team make it clear that power is not a priority, it’s time for that leader to step aside.
So we have another Labour leadership election before us. As many of you will know, I had the misfortune to preside over two of them in Scotland. What I can say is that though both were exhausting for the candidates and party staff, they were pretty good-natured affairs overall.
The same will not be said for the UK leadership election in front of us.
But how did we get to this place of having a leadership election less than a year after Jeremy Corbyn won so decisively? Some will argue that the PLP have never got behind Jeremy and that is partially true. But then again, some never really got behind Ed Miliband either.
From my own perspective, I found Ed Miliband’s election hard to swallow, as I had campaigned locally for David. But like the vast majority of Labour people, I eventually swung full square behind Ed, even knowing then that he was unlikely to bring us electoral success and went down badly on the doors in Scotland. Ed was seen as being an awkward, nerdy guy. Clever, but lacking the ‘right stuff.’ But still we knocked the doors for him, because that’s what we do.
Following Jeremy’s election, and having memorised the script from the last time, I was prepared to do exactly the same. And indeed, having met Jeremy several times in his first month as leader I could see how this could work. In Labour Hame and in the Daily Record I said that the key to Jeremy’s success would be on making compromises with the PLP (and they with him,) as that’s what a leader has to do. He had to get an experienced team around him who could navigate the PLP and who could write speeches for him where he didn’t wander off topic as happened all too often.
In reality he did the opposite of this, and surrounded himself with people who, though undoubtedly clever, had little affinity with the Labour Party at all.
I joined the Labour Party partially out of gratitude for what they had done for me and my family over the years. When I needed a hand up, it was Working Families and Child Tax credits that did just that. Labour in power were an undoubted force for good in Britain.
But when a leader and his team make it clear that power is not a priority at all, but that it’s about building a ‘mass movement’, then in my opinion it’s time for that leader to step aside. (See Clause 1 of the Labour Party Constitution.)
Those members of the PLP who say that Jeremy is going down badly on the doors are putting it mildly. If Ed was regarded poorly, Jeremy is off the scale. The people who matter, the voters, those crying out for an end to austerity, for an end to inequality, simply will not get it because the Labour Party has fielded a leader with an inner circle incapable of winning an election.
But now we have an opportunity. Angela Eagle did those voters a great service by firing the starting gun in a challenge to Jeremy. Now that Owen Smith is the unity challenger, he has my full in support in driving this party, the party that I love, towards electability. But it won’t be easy.
Owen is rooted in the left of the Labour Party, despite desperate attempts by some to smear him as a corporate lackey. In normal times of course, the left would be all over him because he speaks directly to the concerns of the country, to trade unionists and to those who seek to better their lot in life. And happens to be a polished media performer. Something essential in modern politics.
But these are not normal times.
At important points in our history, Labour has stood up to the challenges our country has faced. At a time when we face uncertain future, working people need the reassurance of a Labour Party working in their interests. Hopefully come September we will have just that.