Naked Politics Blogger
A dark cloud loomed ominously low over the Labour party, following their crushing general election defeat. Now, some two and a half months on, the dust is beginning to settle and the debate for the next party leader has well and truly reared its ugly head.
There are four candidates on the ballot: Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper, Jeremy Corbyn and Liz Kendall. What are each of them really offering and is it what Labour needs?
Veteran left-winger Jeremy Corbyn holds a Trotskyite position that echoes the party divisions of 1983. We have a Labour party at war with itself. On one hand you have Mr Corbyn, the true voice of the working class. He would re-nationalise the railways, put higher taxes on the rich, announce a £10 billion plan to scrap university tuition fees and reinstate maintenance grants, which have recently been abolished by George Osborne. A romanticised position that has long fell out of favour with an increasingly right-wing Britain.
On the other end of the spectrum, you have the centre left leaning so called ‘Blairite’ candidate Liz Kendall. She is an advocate of free schools and is against slashing tuition fees. She is the apparent polar opposite of Mr Corbyn, stating that Labour deluded itself into thinking that the country had shifted to the left. The general consensus is that she is a closet Tory.
Occupying the round between the two extremes are the two front-runners in the race, Andy Burnham and Yvette Cooper. Mr Burnham with his working class Liverpudlian backstory made a failed leadership attempt in 2010, but this time round received the most backing from fellow MPs and has been the bookies favourite since day one. He has been slightly more vocal in his approach this time, such stating that he will directly oppose the welfare cuts, a position not taken by interim leader Harriet Harman. He refused to defend Labour’s economic record when they were last in power and has attempted to show forward thinking by hinting he would appoint a female to be shadow chancellor (this would be the first time a woman has held this position). However, Mr Burnham has stated that Ed Miliband’s manifesto was the best he had stood on in four general elections for Labour. It is this close association that could tarnish his position.
Cooper, the wife of the recently ousted Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls has bags of government experience, is calm under pressure, and handles herself well against the opposition. For all this however, has failed to set out her position and direction for the party, leading to fears that it is all too similar to the one headed by Ed Miliband.
We have four candidates that cover the whole Labour spectrum. This seems ideal, so what is the problem? There is a fundamental issue with the leadership hustings, in that each candidate is only allowed one minute to speak, some questions are only being answered by one or two of them and no opportunity for a real debate. This allows for a cautious approach from the contenders as they are only afforded the opportunity of a sound bite, meaning the heart of the issue is ignored.
With the most recent YouGov poll showing that Jeremy Corby is the clear leader (the man who has been labeled as a joke) we don’t know how it will turn out. Former Prime Minister Tony Blair has urged voters away from the left-winger, whilst there have been calls for Miss Kendall to quit. There is a separate debate headed by Yvette Cooper that challenges the lack of women holding serious positions within the cabinet and all the while the Conservatives are going about enacting change.
Labour party members, registered supporters and affiliated supporters all have a chance to vote, provided they have joined before midday on the 12 August. But if like me, your favourite remains unclear, there will be a great deal of difficulty come polling day.