Dear Mr Corbyn
Thank you for applying for the position of leader of the Labour party. You have transformed a dull, lifeless campaign into a vibrant battle for the future of our party. However, I regret to inform you that I will not be voting for you.
You will remember the key tasks and requirements for the role (see below). On some of these, you have blown the other candidates out of the water with your passion, your meaty progressive policy proposals and your ability to eloquently express opinions without resorting to cringe-worthy sound bites. But, it is on some of the essential requirements for the role that you come short.
Position: Leader of the Labour party
- Unite the Labour party against oncoming storm of disastrous Tory policies
- Win the 2020 general election
- Govern effectively as prime minister
- Proven ability to work as part of a team (essential)
- Political governing experience (essential)
- Broadly appeal to external stakeholders (essential)
- Ability to express opinions like a normal person (desirable)
- Roguish charm (desirable)
- Award-winning beard (desirable)
Proven ability to work as part of a team
I salute the excellent work you have done as a backbencher, taking principled stands on issues from the Iraq war to Labour’s anti-terrorism laws. But, let us be honest, you are not exactly a team player. How can you, as the most rebellious Labour member of parliament, expect to command loyalty from the parliamentary Labour party as its leader?
We are not selecting a spokesperson, nor a dictator who can implement policies by decree. If you do become prime minister, without the support of fellow Labour MPs you would be a lame duck leader from day one. Your profound political differences with large swaths of the PLP would leave you exposed to constant rebellions by the large majority of Labour MPs who strongly oppose your leadership bid. Nearly half of the MPs who nominated you for leader have switched back to other candidates, and many members of the shadow cabinet have ruled out serving under you – even under your proposed system of elected ministers.
Political governing experience
You have been a fantastic MP for Islington North for more than 30 years, but you are totally untested at the leadership skills required to be prime minister. Elections are not just about who has the best policies – they are also about who voters trust to steer the ship. In the last election, despite agreeing with many of Labour’s individual policies, voters rejected the party in large part because they did not trust it to competently run the country.
Now, us Brits are not exactly known for being big risk-takers at the ballot box. ‘Go on then, let us vote for the radical guy with no proper experience of governing’ said no British electorate ever. Even Clement Attlee, Labour’s last truly radical prime minister, first cut his teeth with key cabinet positions, including wartime deputy prime minister, before getting the nod by British voters to transform the country.
Broadly appeal to external stakeholders
During this campaign, you have inspired and energised lefties, including me, all over the country, but to have any hope of winning the next election we need to reach out to a broad spectrum of the public, and yes, that includes those who voted Tory in May.
I do not believe it is necessary to abandon all traditional leftwing positions to win elections. From railway nationalisation to higher taxes on the rich, it seems the public are in favour of many progressive reforms supported by you. However, first we need to regain credibility on managing the economy, and combine traditional left-wing ideas with big-tent policies that also appeal to many of those who reluctantly backed the Tories.
Based on number-crunching by the socialist thinktank, the Fabian Society, ‘around four out of five of the extra net votes Labour will need to gain in English and Welsh marginals will have to come direct from Conservative voters’. To lurch left and give up on winning back Tory voters, focussing instead on those who voted for other leftwing parties and those who did not vote at all, would be a stunningly narrow strategy that would all but guarantee electoral oblivion.
Despite all these concerns, for much of the campaign I was really torn about whether to vote for you. You have bravely and eloquently proposed progressive ideas that I share, which other Labour politicians have been too afraid to defend in public. And I would love to see you in the dispatch box tearing in to David Cameron at prime minister’s questions.
But there are more important things at stake than my entertainment and sense of solidarity. If Labour lose the next election, it will not be middle class people like me who bear the brunt of more Tory rule. I believe in this case, voting compassionately also means voting tactically. I will cast my vote for who I believe can achieve the most as Labour leader, and that is not you.
Daniel Gross is an affiliate member of the Labour party
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