Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Labour's Next Leader Must Pass the Blink Test; Established 1827

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Labour's Next Leader Must Pass the Blink Test; Established 1827

Article excerpt

PAY attention. There's a Labour leadership contest going on and its outcome matters because the winner could be our next prime minister. "Ah, but," you say, "after their election wipeout the Left aren't going to be in power for a decade so I'll tune in later." That's a mistake. Fifteen years ago, after a third shattering defeat, everyone said the Tories could never recover in a single parliament. But in 2010, David Cameron gained 97 seats and entered Downing Street, supported by a coalition and heralding a new era of Conservative ascendancy. If Labour gained 97 seats in 2024 they, too, would enter Number 10 with a coalition, and could remain there for a long time.

So who is the candidate for the Labour leadership most likely to achieve that? Let's set some tests. First and foremost, does this person see their overriding mission to be getting Labour into government? That might seem like an obvious central objective for any opposition, but it was not the primary goal of Jeremy Corbyn and his fellow travellers Len McCluskey and John McDonnell. For them, seizing the commanding heights of the Labour movement for the hard Left was the dream taking office was an afterthought, which only entered their heads when Tory errors in the 2017 election put them tantalisingly close.

Corbynista energy and ruthlessness was focused on winning seats on the party's NEC rather than seats in Parliament. So they ducked the decisions required to win office rooting out anti-Semitism whatever the internal cost; responding forcefully to Putin's poisoning of Salisbury rather than pandering to crackpot anti-American groups; and confronting the broader Left with the hard lesson that the taxpayer won't entrust their money to someone who can't add up. Will the next Labour leader be different? Will they take whatever decisions are necessary to make the Opposition fit to be a government? …

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