The Labour leadership process has shot the party in the foot again – and Richard Burgon’s deputy nomination is proof

The last thing Keir Starmer and Angela Rayner need is the likes of the shadow justice secretary clowning around and grandstanding like a big baby Corbyn

Sean O'Grady
Monday 13 January 2020 18:08 GMT
Who will replace Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader?

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas


Never let it be forgotten that if Margaret Beckett and a few other Labour MPs has not taken pity upon him and “lent” them their nomination back in 2015, a certain elderly lefty would never have even appeared on the ballot paper, let alone been elected leader. They did so in a spirit of widening debate and, perhaps, in the hope of so humiliating what was left of the left it would be extirpated.

Well, that turned out well.

It seems something in a slightly more comedic fashion has happened again with the news that Richard Burgon has been helped over the line and will have a shot at deputy leader of the Labour Party. Anyone who watched his performances in the election campaign will have noticed that his main crime is not to be a Corbynite, but a most incompetent Corbynite. His buttock clenchingly bad interviews with Kay Burley have been expertly satirised in Michael Spicer’s Room Next Door videos. It shows a certain vestigial stubborn stupidity, naivety or venality on the part of some in Labour that they would run even the remotest risk that Burgon would be a heartbeat away from the leadership. Morons, you might say.

More heartening is Rebecca Long-Bailey’s miserable 33 nominations from MPs and MEPs – those who know her best being least impressed, it seems. That relationship and knowledge was always, by the way, why leaders were elected only by MPs in the old days, before a previous leftist surge in 1980 widened things out as a bogus exercise in democracy. The parliamentarians also had the most “skin in the game” with the leader, and took it seriously. They should think about going back to that system.

So if the Labour members do go for RLB, they will be defying the MPs’ judgement, just as they did with Corbyn and before that with Ed Miliband. That means yet more crises of confidence and internal struggles for supremacy, and an even bigger division in the party. Having a RLB-Burgon leadership is just too ghastly to even contemplate.

Thank goodness then that it does look much more like the Starmer-Rayner dream ticket will make it – balanced in every sense. The danger now is that Burgeon and RLB (and possibly others on the old guard) will do so well that they’ll get plum jobs and influence in the new shadow cabinet. This will badly retard Labour’s progress.

Leadership isn’t about accent or education or even gender. It is about brains, stamina and taking a party in the right direction. For Starmer and Rayner to crack on with the job they will need a really solid mandate from the members and MPs. The forces ranged against them are formidable. The left “owns” everything committee and organ in the party organisation. Momentum operates – unconstitutionally – as a party within a party. The last thing Starmer and Rayner need is the likes of Burgon clowning around and grandstanding like a big baby Corbyn.

Every policy area will need review. Every cell of the party needs purging of antisemitism. Every part of its marketing, social media and digital data organisation needs radical overhaul – the sort of things Dominic Cummings and Lyndon Crosby have done for the Tories. Rebuilding Labour is a huge task and will take years. It is not going to be a time for sentimentality about socialism and voting for people because you feel sorry for them or they’re the most sincere socialist. That’s how Labour got into this mess in the first place.

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