Help needed: I am a Labour member and I haven’t a clue who to vote for as leader

LabourLeadersI have been a member of the Labour party since 1994 when I was in the final year of my Social Work degree. I almost joined when John Smith was leader but it was Tony Blair’s ascent to the top job which inspired me to take the step.  For the first time I felt genuine resonance with a political leader’s vision and thinking.  His famous comment, now easily dismissed as a mere sound-bite, that a Labour government would be ‘tough on crime and tough on the causes of crime’ captured my attention and made sense. It was a succinct synthesis of much of the discussions around personal and social responsibility which lay at the heart of my course.

Mainly due to Iraq and his own personal wealth, Blair is now one of the most despised political figures.  Similarly to the Conservative Party following Margaret Thatcher, who also won three elections in a row, Labour has experienced an extended hangover from Blair’s spell as leader. Gordon Brown played the John Major role, struggling painfully through an economic crisis. And, as history now shows,  Ed Miliband’s tenure as leader was just as painful was William Hague’s had been of the Tories after Major in the late 1990s.

At a loss

And when it comes to the election for the new Labour leader, I am at a complete loss about who to vote for.

I can see why some people are getting excited about Jeremy Corbyn because he stands so clearly for something different and distinctive. And I can see that he could do well for Labour in Scotland – but all I can see happening is that Labour become less electable than ever.  Labour may end up being purer in its principles but simply be reduced to a party of protest.

But the problem is that none of the other candidates are impressing me. They may be decent and solid but at the moment, I just can’t see them having what it takes to lead the party.

An R&R poll

I have to confess, that I voted for Ed Miliband at the last leadership election back in 2010. It was a decision that I came to regret very soon after making it when I realised I could not hear him speak without wincing at how poorly he communicated.

So I thought I would ask R&R readers to help me out. It won’t dictate how I vote but I am interested in your opinion. Please vote in the poll and if you have time leave a comment about who you rate and why.  Who would be the best leader of the Labour Party?

30 thoughts on “Help needed: I am a Labour member and I haven’t a clue who to vote for as leader”

  1. Hi John

    Are you coming to Greenbelt this year

    If you are and have time for a coffee I would be delighted to meet up and talk a bit about your article on GB a few weeks ago

    Best wishes

    Andy ( trustee of Greenbelt)


    1. Hi Andy, I would have loved to but I don’t think I will make it as I have just got back from Lee Abbey where I have been for the past week and I don’t think I can squeeze GB in. Its a shame as I do love being there. I hope it all goes well – thanks, Jon


  2. Corbyn … New Labour is tarnished with much more than the Iraq war although this was probably its most heinous betrayal … Brown got a very bad deal and in spite of his mistakes he really did try to redistribute wealth more fairly … in fact I think I would go as far as saying that he is the best PM since I started voting (Thatcher’s 2nd term). Blair’s message, and the one you mention in particular, also resonated strongly with me but it was a soundbite of little substance … he advocated the introduction of ASBOs for under 16s and filled our streets with signs about surveillance and fear mongering about terrorism. How about tough on terrorism, or the consequences of destabilising the whole of the Middle East, tough on the causes of terrorism? That resonates quite strongly with me now.

    A Blairite, ‘New Labour’ based opposition is no opposition at all … I think a swing to the left with a dash of libertarianism is exactly what we need and truly believe it would win votes … I hope that it is Corbyn carrying out the purges and not one of the other hypocritical, self-serving excuses for ‘politicians’.


    1. Thanks Neo. I find it so fascinating that Blair is so despised – I understand the anger about Iraq – I marched and protested against the war – but it seems to tainted everything that he did and it does not seem balanced to me as I think there was loads of good stuff that he managed to do that is impossible when you are not in power.


      1. I know, Bloody Sunday Inquiry, Good Friday Agreement … I really agree but what happened with Iraq was very bad in a lot of different ways and as I said those standing against Corbyn will not be an opposition in any real sense. I believe that austerity is a lie end of.


  3. The link is working now.

    We expect a lot from leaders with modern media. Do we vote with someone with the right principles, or someone who can articulate their view well? I have voted Liberal for years because I wanted PR so that we could have many viewpoints in parliament. I was not impressed when they stated they were in favour of joining the Euro!

    The Conservatives stitched up the Liberals because of their lack of political expertise. Probably Jeremy Corbyn will get swamped by those who are more politically astute. It will be interesting to see what happens.



  4. I am in a similar position. Or was – I have now voted.

    Lessons of history suggest Labour win when they have fresh, young leader untainted by the failures of the past. Blair and Wilson both became leaders unexpectedly and were seen as young, fresh and exciting. Lets not forget their election records.
    Contested 8
    Won 7

    By contrast let’s compare to every other post-war Labour leader.
    Contested 11 (I think)
    Won 2 (both were Atlee)

    Do any of the candidates fit this mould – fresh, young and untainted. Kendall could have but being so close to Blair has damaged her badly. Cooper and Burnham have failed in this campaign so far.

    Which brings us to Jeremy Corbyn has successfully (not cynically) tapped into the anti-establishment underbelly which the SNP and Farage have also been successful at doing. Could this carry him all the way to Number 10? I would be as astonished as if Donald Trump got the Republican nomination.

    But having got the General Election so wrong and not having seen this groundswell I am giving up the political prediction business. Still happy to emphatically state that Arsenal will win the title and Palace finish in the top six though.


    1. Thanks Paul. Your encouraging words about Palace confirm that you are a balanced and thoughtful commentator – and I love the election stats you have come up with. Maybe we are experiencing a groundswell which will change the political landscape? I doubt it – just as I doubt Arsene will ever lift the Premiership trophy again with the money that Chelsea, Man City and Utd are swimming in.


  5. I would vote for who the Labour members who were members before the GE probably would have voted for before anyone could buy a ballot paper for £3. In my opinion that would probably have been Andy Burnham although I like LIz Kendall’s straight talking ways. Sadly the infiltration of people joining the party to vote for Corbyn and putting Kendall as 2nd is leading others to vote tactically to counterbalance. Most Labour supporters don’t want to see Labour in opposition for another 2+ terms neither do they want another leadership election this time next year. I think the best Corbyn can hope for is to turn the party slightly towards the left before he is inevitably overthrown.
    For all the rantings about ‘Blairites’ if people were actually to look at the policies, particularly of the 2nd government, they would find some of the most socialist policies in history and proved that society and business success were not mutually exclusive. It was all going ok until we mention the W word.
    As a very balanced and thoughtful bloke I’d let your head decide this one. If all else fails let the coin decide!


  6. http://jrbpublications.com/2015/07/23/the-labour-leadership/

    thought provoking Jon and I feel similar to you. Probably need to update my earlier post given the amount of water that has flowed under the bridge since. What is clear to me is we need a credible opposition that understands the realities of government but stands for the poor and social justice – the very things that attracted me to Labour as a 15yo despite my Christian mentors antipathy.


  7. Hi Jon

    Jeremy Corbyn. Yes, to critics his policies are too “old Labour” but this is also his strength – that he is untainted by Iraq and the centrist New Labour agenda, which is rightly characterised as Tory lite. His anti war and anti-privatisation stand is a matter of public record. Look how he has mobilised and galvanised the labour movement, young people especially, who are so important to our nation, and who’ve been so alienated by an unrepresentative political elite which ignores their needs – for education, housing and opportunity.
    Its a lot like the Scottish referendum – a vote for hope and a progressive, real alternative. If he wins the leadership I think a lot of people from the progressive left will bet behind him, including some who left Labour for the Greens TUSC etc.

    A lot of economists and academics agree that Corbyn’s supposedly radical policies are actually very workable and effective eg public ownership over private profit. A national investment bank.

    We need a genuinely active and mobilised grassroots democracy, including the currently mostly disenfranchied, and Corbyn is the man!


    1. Thanks Al – it is certainly good seeing him galvanise those who are disenchanted and the Greens would lose a lot of support if he was leader. But I am far from being convinced – surely if he was a genuine threat then the Tories would speak up against him – but they are cheering him all the way!


  8. Yes I’ve voted for corbyn… impressed having heard him speak to apublic meeting..(totally unimpressed with the others – other than Stella Creasy for deputy). but with no illusions he can lead labour back to power…too many of the voters in marginals will be scared off..

    But it’s only right that the debate is about a distinct value based alternative to the empty rhetoric and didn’t make much difference approach of the last 20 years..


  9. I would suggest go with your instincts (rather than mine, and rather than what seems to work) and if that means Corbyn, then my view tells me that Labour is finished as a Party of dominant power and national control. I actually see that as a good thing. I also believe that whilst Cameron and those behind him will use the next 4.5 years to ensure that Labour can never win, that in doing so they will overstep the mark and the splits in the Torys will make Labours current implosion look like a picnic. We need Political Parties to articulate ideas and bring challenge to the Government of the day, but not to coral and manipulate our MPs. Following the PCC elections in 2012 we ended up with 30% Independents. Translate that to Parliament and we would have 190 MPs willing to stand up for their constituents (inevitably some would serve only their own interests) and use their conscience to determine how they vote rather than a party whipping them. I realise my ideas seem crazy and perhaps they are, but I do think we need a different future to our past.


    1. thanks Ian – its just history tells us that people are willing to take risks in bye-elections, PCC and local Mayor elections that they simply won’t take in General Elections. These kind of results just never seem to translate over to when it matters on the big stage.


      1. Whilst I agree that primarily you are right, it is only a few decades ago when Political Parties began to overwhelm local government. I believe that Corbyn proves that even within parties, the prevailing tide can go out. I hope within my lifetime to see enough Independent MPs in Westminster to enable folk such as Chukka to begin to take a risk with a few beanbags!


  10. Jon, you should’ve stuck around on Saturday night. We had some good chat around the fire shelter on this. I’m a new member as of April (mainly as an expression of how much I preferred Miliband to Cameron) though I live in Scotland so clearly that had a huge impact. 😉 I don’t think you should necessarily regret voting for Ed; in my view he would’ve made a terrific PM, far better than the media caricatures, and the Ukip/Scottish factors weren’t necessarily foreseeable.

    Anyhow, back to the here and now. I’m pleased to hear your thoughtfulness and measured consideration. I don’t think there’s always been enough of that in this discussion. I haven’t heard anything from Kendall about how she’d win back disaffected greens, snps and non-voters. I haven’t heard anything from Corbyn about how he’d win over people who voted Tory in 2015. Without doing both Labour haven’t got a hope of winning any time soon imo. In truth the ge was such a bloodbath that it’ll be fiendishly difficult to win in 2020 anyway. But the new leader should at the very least be gaining seats rather than losing them. For me that leaves either Burnham or Cooper, neither of which I agree particularly set the pulse racing. Although I disagree with his politics on some issues I do think it’s a shame that Chuka Ummuna isn’t in the race. He’s one of the few Labour politicians I know of with star quality. I’m voting Cooper as 1st choice because I’ve heard her say the most positive things on policy and because Burnham’s struck me as being a bit of a dillydally.

    On Corbyn, a couple more personal thoughts. He’s late 60s and so would he necessarily have the energy and ability to lead the party for the next 10-15 years (which is what you’d want any leader to have the capacity to do)? And will his abrasive directness, currently cherished by already-converted Labourites, be a blessing or a curse on the national stage? Will he just come across as an angry old man on PMQs?


    1. Yes, Chukka is our local MP and it was a shame when he pulled out – although I understood his reasons for not wanting the kind of relentless pressure the job would bring. Even with him, there is a high measure of control though and you can see with all the candidates (apart from Corbyn) the influence of Mandelson-type messaging and the cautiousness it brings. At my kids school summer fair last summer, Chukka turned up to open it but refused to play a game I was organising (it was only throwing beanbags into a ladder) because as he put it, ‘everyone with a phone is a journalist’. Even when I said he only had to use red bean bags, it did not make a difference and he just stood around talking and shaking hands. He’d be rubbish on Sports and Acts…


      1. Ha, totally! I read a Buzzfeed article following Tim Farron around during the election and he spent half the time playing football with some kids. I know which model of politician I prefer.


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