The clock struck noon and it was if the past 32 years had never happened. Veteran Left-wing MP Jeremy Corbyn had, with seconds to spare, got the necessary 35 nominations to win his place on the Labour leadership ballot. And with that news, it became clear that the Labour party has not just failed to learn the lessons of last month’s election failure; they are still too busy ignoring the lessons of 1983. In that year, one of the party’s most traumatic defeats in its history, the British people voted en masse to reject Michael Foot and his socialist manifesto – famously dubbed ‘the longest suicide note in history’.
Today, no one in the Labour party – well, at least no one remotely sane – thinks Jeremy Corbyn will win the party leadership. But a fair number of MPs and party activists apparently believe he deserves to be on the ballot paper anyway. They include otherwise sensible folk like Sadiq Khan – who is running for London mayor – who announced he would not vote for Corbyn but he would nominate him because he wanted to ensure the ‘widest possible debate’ in the party. Khan and others of the last minute nominators appear to think that including Corbyn’s Left-wing agenda as part of the wider debate about the future of the Labour party in some ways make it a more inclusive and open conversation.
Actually, what it really says, to the rest of the country and, crucially, those middle-England floating voters who decide every election, is quite the opposite. It says: ‘We haven’t quite decided yet whether we really do believe in capitalism, business, aspiration and all of the values that Tony Blair espoused.’
The ideas put forward by Corbyn and his Left-wing band of brothers don’t need to be debated yet again. They’ve been debated a thousand times and, each time, they’ve been defeated – within Labour party ranks and at the ballot box. Why? Because they don’t work and voters don’t like them.
The Labour leadership ballot isn’t a party game in which all must have prizes. This is a serious business and, by putting Corbyn on the ballot, the party has shown it isn’t serious about winning the next election. Jeremy Corbyn is a genuinely nice man, hugely liked and admired by his colleagues for his unbendable beliefs. But his political views – although sincerely held – simply have nothing to offer the average British voter.
He believes in higher, not lower, Government spending; higher, not lower, taxes; he wants nuclear disarmament and the environment to be much higher on the agenda; sees no downside to mass immigration and doesn’t believe that Labour overspent before the 2008 crash. He even thinks Ed Miliband should still be Labour leader. Yes, really. On all these things, he is wildly out of touch with the views of the vast majority of the electorate, and even most Labour voters too.
If, all these years after the disaster that was Michael Foot and the election-wining machine that was Tony Blair, Labour is still debating whether the Left’s ideas work or not, then they don’t have a chance of finding the answer to their electoral woes. The midday deadline may have passed but the clock is still ticking for Labour to stop debating itself and start offering ordinary voters what they want. And, trust me, it’s not Jeremy Corbyn.