The actual starting gun to the Labour leadership contest has now been fired. Ballots go out over the next couple of days, meaning voting for the next Labour leader will be commencing very shortly. As a registered supporter this time round, I have been at the receiving end of all of the contenders’ leafletting. I thought I would take the time to review each one’s content; to talk about the literature they have each sent out to try and woo my vote.
As if they were racing to get to me, the leaflets from Keir Starmer and RLB landed on my doormat at the exact same time. That was several days ago and yet I still have nothing from Lisa Nandy’s campaign. This has caused me to react several ways. One is to feel sorry for the clearly under-funded nature of her campaign as compared to the other two. The second is to feel that perhaps a strategy error was made here – I am a registered support, not a member, so shouldn’t the Nandy campaign be targeting me hard given they have a good chance of persuading me to vote for them? I mean, I could be someone who signed up to vote for Jess Phillips and now I’m looking around, wondering whether to go Keir or Lisa. Anyhow, I haven’t got anything, so it is with regret I have to give the mark of 0/10.
This is obviously the best of the bunch, but that is saying very little. A good picture of Starmer on the front of the leaflet, but a bad slogan – “Another Future is Possible” is way too close to the Lib Dems’ dogshit “Build a Brighter Future” for my liking. Opening it up one level, things improve, messaging wise. The “A Life Devoted to Fighting Injustice” panel on the side reminds you that he has a decent CV in the fighting for the oppressed department, as in, he’s actually done stuff to help people less fortunate than himself as opposed to blabbing on about how no one understands what socialism means. It also reminds you that he is genuinely working class, the son of a toolmaker and a nurse. The larger panel has the slogan “Integrity, Authority, Unity”, which is a way, way better slogan than the Lib Dem-lite one on the front, which is confusing since they should have put this on the front instead. It communicates succinctly Starmer’s credentials. This is followed by testimonials from a variety of people, some the expected Labour MPs and trade unions types but also with some people who aren’t even visibly associated with Labour, so some extra marks for that. Some of which are lost again with the fact that the leaflet folds out into a poster of Keir that’s a little bit much, as well as a reminder on the back of his ten pledges, which remain truly terrible. Over all, I’ll give it a 3.5/10.
Okay, I just wanted to get this out of the way off the top: that logo, man. It is fine if Rebecca Long-Bailey was a heavy metal band in 1982, not so good for anything else. Right, now I’ll move on.
There is so much to say about this leaflet. It almost perfectly summarises what is wrong with the modern left and it fits in your pocket. It starts by telling you that RLB is the only candidate with a path to power mapped out and ready to deliver. Or you could say her plan is “oven ready”, only that sort of effective sloganeering is way beyond the RLB campaign. Then there is more of the movement crap that the left fails to understand turns everyone outside of their bubble off completely before we get to RLB’s record, one we should “trust”. That is: she wrote some shit for the last manifesto, a platform from which Labour lost over 50 seats; she stayed in Corbyn’s cabinet through all of the numerous reasons to quit; she voted against the Conservative Welfare Bill in 2015. And uh, that’s it. Jeez, Becky, that puts Keir Starmer’s ten year unpaid battle in the McLibel case to shame, doesn’t it? In all seriousness, RLB is young and relatively inexperienced. Run with the pluses that brings instead of trying to talk up her record.
Then we come to her four pledges. Now, I will give her one point for having only four instead of Keir’s ten. Yet I have to then dock half a point because the four pledges are even worse than Starmer’s in every imaginable way. Under “aspirational socialism”, we are told that RLB’s socialism is “socialism for the majority”, which given she was a member of Corbyn’s shadow cabinet and gave his leadership a 10 out of 10, there is considerable electoral data to refute. There is a whole pledge dedicated to “Empowering our Movement” which is even more cringe-worthy than you might expect. It contains a bunch of vague crap that acts as the styrofoam to cushion the real point of this pledge: we’re going to deselect everyone standing, baby, everyone. Pledge four is entitled “A Democratic Revolution” and is a pitch for all the Lib Dem voters out there, so numerous are they. Yet even the Lib Dem pitch is half-arsed. How about this for a convoluted sentence worthy of a Corbyn-era Brexit document: “empower a constitutional convention to explore proportional representation”. Like most other things in the leaflet, RLB wants to present herself as some sort of socialist radical but then becomes mealy-mouthed about pretty much everything of substance.
Then on the back we get Lavery and McCluskey telling us why RLB will win the next election. Great. I am tempted to give this a 0 out of 10, but that feels like cheating so it’s: 1/10.
Everything in politics is relative. In this contest, Starmer really is the one-eyed man in the land of the blind. Yet it looks certain to be enough. Hang up those snazzy Keir posters, kids, he’s your golden hope for 2024.