In case you hadn’t noticed the Labour leadership debate is causing quite the stir in British politics. So much so, that not one but two former Prime Ministers have waded into the argument. Now that voting has opened, what exactly have we learnt about the Labour candidates and British politics more widely?
- That people are tired of politicians avoiding answering straightforward questions, not least because this is a leadership debate – the successful candidate will have to be decisive, and win over the public if they are to win the next general election.
- That Jeremy Corbyn, who started out as the dark horse of the election, has become the focal point of the debate – a YouGov survey for The Times revealed that of the polled 1,411 eligible Labour leadership voters, 53% backed Jeremy Corbyn.
- That ‘credible’ is perhaps the most used word of the debate so far – largely in response to Corbyn’s left-wing policies.
- That nothing screams panic like Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall sending a letter to Labour HQ over the integrity of the ballot, and the alleged withheld contact details of trade union members.
- That politics can turn pernicious very quickly: Toby Young, a journalist for the Telegraph, wrote an article encouraging Tory supporters to pay the £3 membership fee, back Jeremy Corbyn, and “consign the party to electoral oblivion in 2020”.
- As a result of the #toriesforCorbyn campaign, Labour now faces the daunting task of sifting through and identifying members that lack genuine support for the party.
- That of the four candidates, three have taken drugs, amazingly by their own admission. Their honesty in this regard is refreshing.
- That despite the polls and speculation, the contest isn’t over for the other candidates- take the general election, polls throughout the run up suggested a hung parliament was almost certain, and yet on the day the Tories managed a shocking overall majority.
- But most importantly, that enough people cared about the outcome that Labour Party membership has surged, with 121,000 registered supporters .
Whatever the outcome of the vote, it is this last point that Labour must remember. After the battering that the party received during the general election earlier this year with the extraordinary rise of the SNP and the resignation of Ed Miliband, this debate presents a real opportunity for Labour to rebuild itself and its grass-root support. Every Government needs a good opposition to ensure that the right decisions are made, or at least that the right questions are asked and controversial policies are challenged.
As for creating a credible party that stands a chance in the 2020 general election, there’s plenty of time for the party to iron out its issues, devise policies that will appeal to Labour supporters, and present a ‘credible’ campaign.