I have known Jeremy Corbyn well for over forty years. I was CLP Chair when he was our constituency organizer and agent. We were members of Haringey Council together. He is now my MP.
However, when I receive my ballot paper, I will not be voting for him.
I don’t dislike him as a person. He is not a hypocrite and his views (like his dress sense) have remained remarkably consistent thoughout those forty years. Many of his ideals and values I would share, as would most Labour members and supporters.
But – and it is a big but – many of his policy positions are impractical and will alienate many of those people who need to vote Labour to ensure a Labour Government is elected.
And it is only by being in Government that the Labour Party can deliver on its ideals and values.
It was an elected Labour Government that created the NHS and a proper system of social security. It was an elected Labour Government that introduced the Race Relations Act and the Equal Pay Act. And it was an elected Labour Government that brought about the minimum wage and gave us the Human Rights Act.
And, when we fail to be elected, the alternative is a Tory Government. Does any Labour person seriously believe that can ever be better than striving to win?
My votes will be cast for what I believe is an election-winning team of Yvette Cooper for Leader and Angela Eagle for Deputy. Both are rooted in Labour’s ideals and values, and both are strong on policies that will make a real and practical difference to the lives of the millions of people around the country who need and deserve a Labour rather than a Tory Government.
I will be one of 610,000 who will be able to vote – three times what it would have been just four months ago. So let’s not decry the election process itself. That level of engagement in an internal Party process is extraordinary and unique in modern British politics. Very few within the Party objected when the wider franchise was proposed and to complain now or call for the process to be halted sounds like trying to get your sour grapes in early.
And when the results are announced on 12th September everyone – including those whose candidates have lost – need to accept the outcome. The new Leader, whoever she or he may be, will have the mandate to expect the loyalty and support of MPs, peers, councilors, members and supporters.
That does not mean that the debate about the Party’s direction and its policies must come to an end. Quite the opposite. However, that debate must be conducted and carried on in an atmosphere of comradeship and mutual respect – whether in the Shadow Cabinet, the PLP or the wider Party.
And in exchange for loyalty and support, whoever is the new Leader must listen and take account of the full range of views within the Party. That is after all what good leaders do.
So perhaps in the last few hours before the ballot papers are sent out we could hear from all of the candidates a commitment to do just that and how they intend to keep the Party – with its plurality of views – together and united, so that our energies can be devoted to, not only opposing what the present Government is doing, but also to building a coalition of support in the country to bring about the election of a Labour Government in 2020.