During the summer, a rumour floated around Westminster that Paul Mason was going to try and become the Labour by-election candidate in Leigh (thus, the next MP for Leigh almost guaranteed) once Andy Burnham steps down (after he becomes the next mayor of Manchester; again, pretty much guaranteed). It hit Guido; Mason denied it. However, since then there have been rumours of discussions about it in Corbyn’s inner circle. Everything here is rumour, in other words, mere speculation, yet now the whole thing has taken on a whole other level: that not only will Mason be the next Labour leader, he is being groomed to take over as leader from Corbyn. I heard this several times in Liverpool last weekend; interestingly, from both sides of the Corbyn divide.
Let’s start with the basics. Mason was born and raised in the constituency, so in terms of him entering parliament there will never be a more sensible opportunity. Bear in mind also that Leigh is an incredibly safe Labour seat and tends to be held onto for epic periods as a result – since John Tinker won the seat at the 1923 election, only three MPs have followed him, meaning the average parliamentary life span of a Leigh MP is almost 24 years. Basically, Leigh isn’t up for grabs all that often.
Mason is also loved by the new wave of Corbyn post-2015 membership, dare I say it, almost on the same level as JC himself. While everyone talks about McDonnell as the natural successor to Corbyn, I’ve always had my doubts – he’s too obviously a political bruiser, naturally fitted to remain near the top but not in the hot seat. The hard left might feel they have total command of Labour at present, but the smarter ones amongst them already wonder what happens when you lose St. Jeremy, and with good reason. Mason is more obviously hard nosed than Corbyn – but also an obvious outsider to proper politics having never been an elected official previously. He was a member of the dreaded MSM for a long stretch, something that should count against him with the Corbynite faithful – yet it hasn’t made a dent in his popularity so far and there is no reason to think it will in future. In fact, I suspect that since he’s walked away from Channel 4 in order to be more overtly political earlier this year, he has turned this potential negative into another positive for him amongst the faithful.
Talking this through, it makes so much sense that I’m now convinced it won’t happen. Corbyn’s weakest spot is his predilection for avoiding doing the obviously sensible thing. If Mason for Leigh followed by Mason for Leader really isn’t on the cards, the current cabal in charge of the Labour Party have really missed an obvious trick.