Day after day, Labour’s big beasts are being wheeled out one by one. Yesterday it was Neil Kinnock, today it’s David Blunkett’s turn to warn against the impending doom if Jeremy Corbyn is elected leader. On the Today programme, the former home secretary made a coded attack on Corbyn, suggesting the party needs a leader who can win elections:
‘I want someone who can be radical, can have a very clear vision of where Britain will be in five years’ time and above all can actually do something about winning. See, I’m speaking really as an activist: I’ve been a member for 52 years. 30 years of those years we’ve been in opposition.’
In light of Blunkett’s long career in the Labour party, he also reflected on the lessons from Labour’s years in the wilderness and why the party must remember that big rallies aren’t everything:
‘We filled halls, we filled Trafalgar Square and we were hammered in the 1983 election and again 87 and again in 92.
‘Nobody under the age of 50 will have had a vote in the 1983 election. Very few people under the age of 40 will have a recollection of the 1980s and early 90s, other than the roof leaking and the windows falling out in their school or having to go to an outside toilet, which was the reality then.
‘What they will remember, as so many us do about 45-51, is a kind of nostalgia for an era where there was a battle laid in such a way that it invigorated all of us. But it didn’t invigorate the electorate who we were relying on to put us in power, to do the kind of things I was able to do from 1997 for the eight years I was in power.’
The problem with such interventions is that they may actually have the opposite effect. Take the news in today’s Telegraph that Harriet Harman investigated shutting down the leadership contest, only to find out it was not legally possibly. This contest is definitely entering uncharted territory — rumours of entryism, thousands of new members and a new election system — but shutting it down risks looking petulant.
While David Miliband and Tony Blair’s interventions will act as a red flag for the Corbynites, Gordon Brown, Neil Kinnock and David Blunkett have less of a tainted reputation in the party. But given that the rise and rise of Corbyn has been thanks to his grassroots support, these big beasts need to consider whether the 600,000-odd members will listen, care or loathe what they have to say.