In Defence of Liberty

Driven by data; ridden with liberty.

And Then There Were Four

The race to be the next Labour leader has begun. (Edited: Mirror)

The race to be the next Labour leader has begun. (Edited: Mirror)

Founded in 1900 by the Trades Union Congress, the Labour Representation Committee sought to bring working class opinions into the House of Commons, working with the Independent Labour Party [1]. The Labour Party was the name adopted by LRC-sponsored parliamentarians in 1906.

The 2015 General Election demonstrated that, like an exhausted dynasty, Labour is cornered by four threats. It is unable to triumph over the Conservatives in England, with Labour receiving 31.6% of English votes, compared to 40.9% going to David Cameron’s party [2].

In Scotland, Labour was overwhelmed by the Scottish National Party (SNP), who captured the seats of key Labour figures: Scottish leader Jim Murphy (East Renfewshire), Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander (Paisley and Renfrewshire South) and Shadow Scotland Secretary Margaret Curran (Glasgow East).

Labour’s vote share massively plunged to 24.3%, its lowest level since 1945. Labour now has a single MP in Scotland.

Whilst posing a nascent peril, UKIP constitutes a cultural threat on Labour in its northern seats [3], with more affluent votes being drained to the Greens.

This is Labour's vote share by constituency. (Source: BBC)

This is Labour’s vote share by constituency. (Source: BBC)

Professor John Curtice of Strathclyde University [4] highlighted that, if the SNP support remained level in 2020, Labour would require a 12.5% lead over the Conservatives in England to win outright a gargantuan task from their present position.

Labour exists to win elections: to be the parliamentary voice of working people and the trade union movement.

It is against this existential crisis that Labour must contest its leadership election to succeed Ed Miliband.

The Contenders

The four contenders are Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper, Liz Kendall and Jeremy Corbyn [5]. Mary Creagh also sought to be a candidate, but withdrew after failing to attain the requisite 35 nominations.

Andy Burnham is presenting himself as the ‘unity’ candidate, whilst also suggesting he is an outsider to the party’s present form:

I’ve never bought in to the real in-crowd, if you like, in terms of those who spend their Saturdays at Fabian conferences and Progess conferences!

This is the same Andy Burnham who gave a keynote speech at the Fabian Summer Conference in 2011, on a Saturday [6].

Apparently, Mr Burnham does go to a conference. (Source: The Fabian Society)

Apparently, Mr Burnham does go to a conference. (Source: The Fabian Society)

As collated by Jason Cowley of the New Statesman [7], Mr Burnham has repeatedly said Labour is trapped inside a “Westminster bubble”. Wishing to restore Labour’s “emotional connection with millions of people”, Mr Burnham would presumably pop the bubble and seal Labour inside a sanctimonious sarcophagus.

Liz Kendall has sought to drag Labour away from its comfort blanket of defeat, and take a “fundamentally new approach” [8].

Ms Kendall has supported 2% of British gross domestic product going to defence expenditure [9], the current Nato target, and proposed the working assistance programme should be devolved [10]. Ms Kendall was noticed for her remark at the end of the Newsnight hustings. Mr Burnham said “the party comes first, always” to the reply:

The country comes first.

(Video: Newsnight)

Yvette Cooper, who has also served as Chief Secretary to the Treasury, is currently Shadow Home Secretary, and is described by the BBC as a “strong Commons performer”.

Whilst demanding confidence in ‘Labour values’ [11], these ideals are being manifested into policy: such as a commitment to wipe out relative poverty in children [12], and the advancement of digital technology. Ms Cooper’s campaign is currently suffering from candidate differentiation, unable to be heard between the bombasts of Burnham and the criticisms of Kendall.

Jeremy Corbyn, the member for Islington North since 1983, is standing on a “clear anti-austerity platform”, arriving at the necessary number of nominations at the twelfth hour [13]. Mr Corbyn is a vice-chair of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and a columnist in the Morning Star newspaper.

The Country Wins

According to the Ipsos MORI poll [14], Andy Burnham is the current front-runner, in the general public and Labour supporters.

and-then-there-were-four-ipsos-mori

A plurality are undecided. (Source: Ipsos MORI, Visualisation: Tableau)

It should be noted that the Labour result is not firm, as it was only based on 275 respondents. Given that a non-existent candidate, Stewart Lewis, gained 6% backing from Labour voters suggests that public ignorance may be affecting the polling.

It is for Labour supporters to decide who should lead their party. British democracy would immeasurably gain from a capable and confident Leader of the Opposition, who is able to challenge the government at its every turn, from the minutiae of policy to its broad vision of the nation.

References

[1] Webb, P. D., 2015. Labour Party. Britannica. Available from: http://www.britannica.com/topic/Labour-Party-political-party [Accessed: 1st July 2015]

[2] House of Commons Library, 2015. General Election 2015. Available from: http://researchbriefings.parliament.uk/ResearchBriefing/Summary/CBP-7186#fullreport [Accessed: 1st July 2015]

[3] Goodhart, P., 2015. Labour has lost its cultural connection with the people it claims to represent. The Guardian. Available from: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/may/29/labour-party-equality [Accessed: 1st July 2015]

[4] Weaver, M., 2015. Pollster John Curtice warns Labour a majority in 2020 is ‘improbable’. Available from: http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/may/21/pollster-john-curtice-warns-labour-majority-2020-election-improbable-politics [Accessed: 1st July 2015]

[5] BBC, 2015. Labour leadership: The contenders. Available from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-32654262 [Accessed: 1st July 2015]

[6] The Fabian Society, 2011. Summer Conference 2011: The Progressive Fightback. Available from: https://www.fabians.org.uk/events/summer-conference-2011-the-progressive-fightback/ [Accessed: 1st July 2015]

[7] Cowley, J., 2015. Andy Burnham thinks he is an outsider but he’s really just another member of the Guild. Available from: http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/2015/06/andy-burnham-thinks-he-outsider-he-s-really-just-another-member-guild [Accessed: 1st July 2015]

[8] BBC, 2015. Liz Kendall confirms Labour leadership bid. Available from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/election-2015-32676664 [Accessed: 1st July 2015]

[9] BBC, 2015. Liz Kendall says Labour should back 2% defence spending. Available from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-32838024 [Accessed: 1st July 2015]

[10] Rentoul, J., 2015. Liz Kendall’s speech at Reuters. Independent. Available from: http://blogs.independent.co.uk/2015/06/30/liz-kendalls-speech-at-reuters/ [Accessed: 1st July 2015]

[11] Yvette for Leader, 2015. Speech by Yvette Cooper on being nominated for Labour leader. Available from: http://www.yvetteforlabour.co.uk/15june_speech [Accessed: 1st July 2015]

[12] Merrick, J., 2015. Labour leadership contest: Yvette Cooper pledges to end child poverty in a generation. Independent. Available from: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/labour-leadership-contest-yvette-cooper-pledges-to-end-child-poverty-within-a-generation-10318315.html [Accessed: 1st July 2015]

[13] BBC, 2015. Labour leadership: Jeremy Corbyn enters race. Available from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-33000155 [Accessed: 1st July 2015]

[14] Ipsos MORI, 2015. Ipsos MORI June Political Monitor. Available from: https://www.ipsos-mori.com/Assets/Docs/Polls/Polmon_June15_lableaders_topline3.pdf [Accessed: 1st July 2015]

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This entry was posted on July 1, 2015 by in National Politics and tagged , , .
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