If I wasn’t so concerned about the future direction of this country, I’d probably have a good laugh at the pitiful field of candidates running for the Labour leadership. The huge disappointment of Labour’s catastrophic defeat at the General Election has morphed into a meek acceptance that not only will the Tories be in power for the next five years, they will probably be in power for the next ten, at least.
I am left with only one candidate I can vote for: Andy Burnham. His work with the NHS brief, his passionate campaigning over Hillsborugh and his all round decency seals the deal for me. Whether he can have any effect on the British people over the term of this government remains to be seen. He certainly won’t unless he can come up with some sort of narrative and present a clear vision of what a Labour Britain would look like with him as PM. At the moment, even lifelong supporters like me don’t really have much of an idea, other than it wouldn’t be quite so bad as it will be under the Tories.
My first choices for the leadership were first Dan Jarvis and second Chuka Umunna and that turned out to be a curse because Jarvis declined to run and Umunna subsequently withdrew from the contest. This explains why I am not a regular at Ladbrokes.
Whilst Burnham is not exactly a new kid on the block, I still see his message of rebuilding the Labour Party as far more appealing than what I am hearing from the other candidates.
Today, I hear Yvette Cooper complaining that Ed Miliband, and presumably her husband Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls, appeared to be “anti-business” and the party should consult more closely with business leaders. If Miliband appeared to be anti-business, the truth is he wasn’t. It was pro fairness. My quarrel with Miliband is that he did not come up with a convincing vision for the country and that he was not anti-business. Now that’s different from actually being anti-business and more a matter of presentation than policy. And is Cooper really trying to say that she stands for anything seriously different from her husband?
Liz Kendall was never a serious candidate in my eyes with her Blairite solutions for the post-Blair age and does not sound so much as centrist as centre right. And although Tristram Hunt has not actually announced his intention to run, his admission that Labour did indeed spend too much money before the financial crash in 2008 is not just wrong, it’s pathetic pandering to the Tory narrative and it will come back to haunt Labour in the years ahead, you just watch.
I do not know if Burnham has it in him to save Labour, never mind return it to power, but he is surely the only choice. Of course Labour needs to be business-friendly – only a fool would say otherwise – but not at the expense of creating a better, fairer country. If people are offered a slightly less nasty Tory party, they will end up voting for the real thing, as they did two weeks ago.