It must be said that the race towards the Labour Party’s new big cheese being in situ has been anything but predictable. I thought back in May that it would be a limp coronation of Andy Burnham, with Kendall being deemed too right-wing and Yvette too wooden and bereft of ideas to even beat out ol’ Eyelashes for the grand prize. Perhaps it would look like a contest for a bit until Burnham pulled definitively ahead, to have happened by this stage, and be looking like the clear winner.
Instead, I’d go as far as to take Burnham pretty much out of the running. With Liz clearly out of it as well (regrettably), that boils the contest down to two live contenders: Corbyn and Cooper. I now believe one of them will be the next Labour leader for sure.
It would have been nice if it had been Kendall/Corbyn instead – a real ideological battle about the future of the Labour Party. Instead, it’s whether the members and assorted three quid entryists want a pure, nostalgia fuelled boatride on the Spirit of ’45 schooner, or a middling all things to all people individual most famous for never having made a clear decision in the course of her life leading the charge towards electoral oblivion. All but the most rabid Corbynites would agree that neither choice is particularly appealing.
For what was supposed to be a warts and all exploration of why Labour lost in May, there are some huge questions still to be answered. A good one is this: how did the Labour front benches become so depleted of talent? If you look back to the turn of the century, it is alarming to see the names and compare them to the present day. Where are the Robin Cooks, the Claire Shorts, the Jack Straws? Harriet is still there, in the interim leader role, but she’s made it clear that she’s stepping away from frontline stuff after September 12th. There’s Dan Jarvis and Chuka – tellingly, both decided not to run for the leadership this time round (well, Chuka technically did run, before pulling his bid after about five minutes). Whatever happens from here, the talent will have to come forward, particularly as there is not going to be someone leading Labour who will have the ability to charm or dazzle middle England. There will be either what feels at present like Ed Miliband part II in most respects already or…..well, Jeremy Corbyn.
Anyhow, it is truly extraordinary how in a bid to shore up the leadership, Andy Burnham looks to have cost himself the big prize. I would feel sorry for him were the effort to get Corbyn on the ballot not so obvious motivated by hubris, on the part of many of Burnham’s supporters in the PLP who nominated Jeremy as well. So who wins between Jeremy and Yvette? That’s too close to call, I think. The Yougov poll today puts Corbyn way ahead, but I don’t believe he’ll win by that great a margin if he manages to pull it off. Will almostly certainly come down to second preferences, and most pointedly who those who vote for Liz Kendall and Andy Burnham give their number twos to.