If you love Labour, you need to vote for Yvette Cooper to lead the party to power. If winning elections and forming governments don’t matter to you, by all means vote for Jeremy Corbyn. If you hadn’t heard of him before the contest, it was probably because he never sat in a Cabinet meeting, he never informed policy, he never authored change on a national scale and he lacked the charisma of backbenchers like Tony Benn to become a known entity in his own right. He seems like a decent enough bloke, like the ageing neighbour you share a smile with and feel nostalgic for. Forgive me, there is no need to be cruel about this dedicated pensioner, but there is every need to be extremely cautious that the Party’s old dear remains so and is not elevated to the role of its condemned executioner.
The autopsy from the 2015 general election is ongoing. Yet, we would be fools not to admit that the overwhelming surge to the right, in the largest turnout in eighteen years, during an age of austerity, proved anti-austerity rhetoric failed to capture the public imagination. The public rejected a call to collectively identify as victims, however worse off they were in real terms.
Therefore, it should be blindingly obvious to any sentient being, that Jeremy Corbyn’s politics, rooted and bound within an anti-austerity framework, will and must fail to galvanise the public, win an election and remove the Conservatives from power. To ignore this logic, and vote Jeremy Corbyn leader, is the work of a delusionist at best and a conscious saboteur at worst. Public opinion at large has to count for something in the Labour movement, it has to be absorbed into the conversation, to motor the dialectical argument to progression. We cannot simply dismiss the unfavourable behaviour of the electorate as a consequence of fear, ignorance or confusion.
Cooper is the only candidate to have grasped this in any demonstrative sense, as evident from her campaign, not patronising the victim who does not know its suffering, but by activating the unlocked potential within our diverse nation.
Her policies, studied, understated, achievable would quietly change the social and cultural landscape: training up our young people, unemployed but tech savvy, for the tech industries we are beginning to create; 30 hours of universal childcare a week, freeing working parents from the torment of choosing between loss of earnings or loss of parenting, a culture no other country in Europe puts up with; implementing buffer zones around abortion clinics where violence and intimidation are rife, securing the greatest indicator of a progressive society - the lasting protection of women’s reproductive rights.
This is the stance of a radical worthy of the name. This is the mettle from which leaders are made.
Surges at both ends of the political spectrum, whether SNP or UKIP do not mean death to the Labour party, nor should they curse us with existential crises. Let’s see them for what they actually are: an ‘us’ versus ‘them’ binary, an easy identity politics, dependent on the exclusion of the ‘other’, be that the self-serving Englishman or the scrounging Eastern European immigrant. Yvette Cooper does not covet one party or ridicule the other, but seeks to unleash a new commonality, to refashion the country within a new global paradigm.
When the British white working class grew alarmed by the murder of Lee Rigby, the targeted and organised rape of white girls, the beheadings of Western journalists by Islamic fundamentalists. - the only space provided for them to vent concerns was within the far right. While Cameron stayed silent, and Corbyn tutted once more about Israel, do you know what Cooper was discreetly doing? Campaigning parliament energetically and productively for the active combat of fundamentalist propaganda on social media, building ties with leaders in the Muslim community who are fighting extremism and prejudice simultaneously. She is an internationalist in the best sense, cautious yet muscular, open but principled. And while ISIS, the imperialist rapists, conquer territory bigger than the size of the United Kingdom and show no signs of slowing down, Corbyn suggests, with a straight face, to consider a disarmament campaign. I know who I’d prefer to guard me while I sleep at night.
The elephant in the room is, of course, the legacy of Tony Blair. Or rather, the albatross of Iraq. The left must accept the invasion of Iraq in 2003 happened under a Labour Government and that Cooper did not commit career suicide to oppose it. But we have played the scorned woman, at this infidelity to our ideological beliefs, for long enough. Our reluctance to move on is pathologically retarding us. We can reject association with Labour’s Iraqi war with every fibre of our being, but we must not adopt a revisionist history which erases all that was achieved in Labour’s thirteen year tenure: the minimum wage introduced; two million children lifted out of poverty; a Scottish Parliament and Welsh assembly established; elected Mayors; reform in the House of Lords; spending per school pupil doubled; health spending trebled; peace in Northern Ireland and Milosevic removed from power. Cooper was a player in all these achievements - actual, tangible, life-changing, historical achievements, including personally pushing through gay rights and successfully uniting cross party opinion to prevent a catastrophic amendment to abortion legislation.
We must move on, away from Blair and away from Corbyn, towards - for the first and only time in the party’s history - a woman, a supremely talented politician, economist, feminist, activist, mother, daughter of a Trade Unionist and granddaughter of a miner.
Why? Because while the left compete at whose Blair effigy is bigger, the Tories sink this country further into the abyss, unchallenged. So go ahead, ignore Cooper, vote Corbyn in, kiss goodbye to a Labour government and then pretend you don’t have blood on your hands. Let women be murdered by their violent husbands as the refuges shut down, watch as the mobs grow outside abortion clinics and women’s reproductive rights become rewritten, let the corpses of migrants in the Mediterranean sea float past the super yachts of the tax evaders this government opens its borders to. Confine the NHS to the history books, destroy legal aid, close down Kids charities and let the food banks flood in. But shame on you for calling yourself part of the Left movement and not having the knackers to change its direction.
Not in my name. The left are losing but we need not be lost. We have to win the next general election. Please, for the love of Labour, vote Yvette Cooper.
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