Quakers are famous for not having leaders: in a Meeting everyone is equal and even though some people have jobs to do which might make them seem important (like Elders and Overseers, Clerks and Treasurers) it is not in fact seen in that light, nor are people allowed to continue in post longer than three years (renewable for a maximum of another three) so that they don’t become identified with that post or build some sort of power base. It’s a bit like politics in a way, except that you can’t keep being elected time after time and there are no elections anyway.
But the Labour leadership race is very definitely an election and now that the rules have been established, each of us needs to think about who will get our vote. The obvious successor to Corbyn in terms of policy is Rebecca Long-Bailey; however I had already decided not to vote for her (for reasons I’ll come to in a minute) and this decision has been compounded by her support for nuclear weapons – or at least her refusal to rule it out. As a lifelong campaigner against these actual (as opposed to imaginary) weapons of mass destruction I could not vote for someone who declares a readiness to use them.
So who am I supporting then? At the moment I’m going with Emily Thornberry, though if she fails to gain enough support in the early stages I’ll switch to Keir Starmer. Why? Well, various reasons. First, we need someone with heft and experience. Thornberry has been in parliament since 2005 and has been a Labour member since she was 17. She has been Shadow Foreign Secretary at a time when Boris Johnson was Foreign Secretary and challenged him in an informed and thorough way. This experience would also stand her in good stead as Leader of the Opposition. Her socialist credentials are generally sound and I believe she has what it takes to unite the party. Much as I supported Corbyn there is now a general perception both within and outside the party that we need a broader appeal. This does not mean a return to Blairism; neither Thornberry nor Starmer are anything like Blair but they have the heft and experience to knock out the Tories. Thornberry also has the virtue – if you want to see it that way – of being female and it remains a bone of contention that whilst the Tories have had two female leaders we have yet to elect one. For deputy I’m going for Angela Rayner.
So we wait. By April it will all be over.