As the Labour Party continue to debate who should be our next leader, many of us must perform that balancing act between those policies we believe in and those which will persuade the electorate. For those on the left (in recent times) this has been a continual juggling act which became so difficult during the Blair years that many of us voted for other parties instead: when you are electable only because you’ve abandoned your principles, what is the point of being in power? Yet there may be a point. You may be less awful than the opposition – and though Blairism was effectively ‘Tory-lite’ it was still better, or less awful than full-fat Toryism.
So what’s a leftie girl to do? The obvious thing would be to vote Rebecca Long-Bailey/Richard Burgeon. They tick all the boxes (I have a problem with recent proposals about trans people, but that’s another story) and would in nearly all respects continue with Corbynism. So what’s wrong with that? Well, in theory, nothing – except that we threw everything we had at getting a Labour victory and we failed – and you can argue that it was the press (true) or Brexit (also true) or the media (to some extent) but it was also the case that we lost. And the likelihood is that with so-called ‘continuity candidates’, however good they may be, we would lose again.
So what then? A return to Blairism? Well, no – I’m happy to report that I see no appetite for that whatsoever: Blair remains, despite his unhelpful anti-Corbynist bleating, a voice in the wilderness. But as far as I can see none of the candidates is a ‘Blairite’ though some have tried to portray Starmer as such and all have excellent qualities. I would like Emily Thornberry to be our next leader but she looks set to fall at the first hurdle and even if she does get on the ballot paper, is unlikely to win; in which case I haven’t decided who I’ll vote for. But I know one thing; that murmurs of wanting to elect ‘someone who looks like a Prime Minister’ need to be resisted. Because what the hell does that mean? Frankly it means electing someone white and male and for god’s sake, if we can’t resist that now, in 2020, when can we? It is not the case that only men win elections, nor should be be looking for more of the same. We should look for someone principled and persuasive, and for my money, Emily Thornberry is both of those things. She’s also shown that she can take on Boris Johnson (as Shadow Foreign Secretary.)
But sadly if things continue as they are it’ll be Starmer, not that I have a problem with Starmer but it would be nice to take this opportunity to choose a woman and sad if, out of an original list of five, we elect the only male. Hey ho. But I guess we’ll probably get a woman as deputy as Angela Rayner is doing well.