We seem to be coming out of the election madness. People are beginning to calm down and come to terms with the reality of what happened. But, of course, the politics isn’t over is it. It’s never over.
Right now, we have the imminent promise of a Labour leadership election. As somebody who left the party not all that long ago, I will follow it with interest. The right leader could tempt me back. But who will it be? The Guardian have offered a list of the runners and riders.
The list is pretty uninspiring. Emily Thornberry and Keir Starmer are both London metropolitan types. They have little to no hope of winning back support with disaffected Northern working class people. If anybody genuinely believes they are the answer to Labour’s current travails, they clearly haven’t understood the problem on any level.
Rebecca Long-Bailey is the current senior leadership teams preferred candidate. That, of itself, tells you why she is entirely unsuitable. The people who led Labour to their worst defeat since the 1930s endorsing you is the kiss of death. Being tainted by the existing party leadership is not going to resolve the issues. By contrast, Yvette Cooper is an old Blairite candidate. It is apparent that the party, nor the country, particularly want a return to that. As many have pointed out, many people were happy with the policies being advanced by the party when they are looked at individually. The issue – broadly speaking – wasn’t the policy platform, much of which was popular. Many will use the failure of Corbyn et al to defend a return to Blairite centrism, but that would be its own mistake.
Then there is Jess Phillips. Paul Embery aptly summed it up on Twitter:
Those who think Jess Phillips is the answer are the kind of people who are so ignorant they believe, because she speaks with a regional accent from outside the South East, she speaks for the very people who have abandoned the party. She does not play well in the North and she can barely conceal her contempt – like many of her fellow party members – for working class people who do not share her woke, progressive liberal views (which is, let’s be honest, the overwhelming majority of them!)
Which leaves us with two. I could live with an Angela Rayner leadership. I don’t think she is the best option but I think she would be OK. Whilst she is the MP for Ashton, her constituency includes Failsworth, which is part of Oldham. By all accounts, she is a good local MP and I think she is liked well enough. But I am not convinced she would be the best choice.
For me, Lisa Nandy is the standout option. She is one of few Labour MPs who – despite campaigning to remain in the EU – has heard the views of her constituents, and the country, and concluded that we must do what we expressly asked to do. I can get behind somebody who is not inclined to write off their constituents as stupid idiots (as Emily Thornberry has allegedly stated clealry enough) but recognises the democratic principles at stake and the need to listen to working class people.
Just as importantly, Nandy is the constituency MP for Wigan and grew up in Manchester. She is not part of the London metropolitan set and understands the issues, not just in the north, but specifically facing the satellite towns that do not see the investment and regeneration that tends to flow to the major metropolitan hubs. She set up the Centre of Towns thinktank specifically to campaign for the often left behind towns. These are precisely the kind of areas that Labour have just lost en masse because the people who live there feel ignored, overlooked and as though the party has courted the metropolitan middle classes to their detriment. Lisa Nandy would be an ideal candidate to restore trust and reconnect with places like mine.
I made no secret of the fact that I didn’t vote in the General Election. I couldn’t in good conscience vote for any of the options before me. Nobody seemed to have any concern for places like Oldham or the people that live here. Either they wanted to ignore the views we expressed in the EU referendum, they preoccupied themselves with woke policies that had little to say to the realities of every day life in our town or they wanted to preside over policies that would badly disadvantage people in our town. There really was no way to vote without feeling extremely uncomfortable with whom I was helping into power.
A Lisa Nandy leadership might just overcome that malaise. She has a clear vision for working class towns and areas, is willing to listen to them and – as I understand it – she goes over fairly well even in that London. If any of the leadership hopefuls might win back working class support in former Labour heartlands, I think she is best placed to do it. I could see her leadership paving the way for many disenfranchised, now former, Labour members to reconsider joining again.
She would get my vote, at any rate.