Thursday, 21 July 2016

Why Jeremy Corbyn reminds me of a former local politician and I want to hear it for RON

So Owen Smith, who has worked as a lobbyist and for a dodgy biotec firm is the 'unity' candidate and I find myself faced with no choice at all in the Labour Party leadership ballot. I have watched him on television already having to defend himself when quotes from his past are read to him. There will be weeks of this, so it will be interesting to see how Smith gets on.

I suspect that I am a 'normal' long-time individual Labour Party member insomuch as I voted remain, wanted a post-2008 strategy which took advantage of the situation to re-build Britain like the 1945 Labour Government did, who believes in local government and a unilateralist since the age of fourteen (I went on my first CND march in 1958), who accepts that Jeremy Corbyn has problems managing a team.

At this moment, logic says I stick with the devil I know (Jeremy Corbyn), but I suspect a good few Labour Party members would join me in wanting to see 'Re-open nominations' (RON) on the ballot paper. Better to take a few months more getting it right than spending years in opposition, which is what will happen if the present stalemate continues.

I am also persuaded by Lilian Greenwood's speech to Nottingham South CLP earlier this week, which you can read in full on her website (click on this link).

I trust Lilian, even though I do not share her views on a range of issues (HS2 for example).

Susan and I lived in Lenton, part of Nottingham South CLP, for thirty-five years until November 2014 and got to know Lilian well. We were not among her initial supporters when she sought the nomination to succeed Alan Simpson back in 2010, but we were impressed by her courtesy and openness from the first time we met her, when she came to visit us in our home at the start of her campaign and we gave her our 100% support the moment she was was selected. Before her selection, we did speak up for Lilian when it came to demands that she live in the constituency, given that she lived not far away.

I do not expect the individual I vote for in a selection meeting, be it a would-be councillor or MP, to have all the same views as me. I have always held the view that you give someone a job and let them get on with it. Quite clearly, Jeremy Corbyn did not give Lilian the support she deserved and other shadow cabinet members tell similar stories. Are they all liars and part of some conspiracy? Life tells me 'no'. 

However there are opportunists who take advantage and there have been plenty of them in recent weeks.

The stories I hear of Jeremy Corbyn remind me of Michael Cowan, a Labour Party councillor for many years on Nottinghamshire County Council and the City Council. Stories abound of the way Michael made decisions and how he treated colleagues. After a longstanding fight with the Labour leadership on the City Council he defected to the Conservative Party.

Michael also lived in Lenton and I got to know him in the 1970s because we were in the same APEX trade union branch. He could be a difficult person to deal with, but I always found him supportive, so my years on the county council chairing the airport and being the arts lead on leisure were enjoyable. Others were not so lucky and found him difficult to work with.

We continued to be friends after he joined the Conservatives and I shared his concerns about the way the Labour leadership managed the city and treated some communities with disdain, like Dunkirk and Lenton. These are well documented elsewhere, including my Parkviews blog, and our personal papers of these times went to the Nottinghamshire Archive a few months ago.

Michael did not have the skills to be a leader, despite his oratory and policy vision (not always right, as with his decision to sell East Midlands Airport to the private sector) and the talk I hear of Jeremy Corbyn reminds me of Michael in many ways.

Jeremy Corbyn's best act of leadership in recent weeks could have been actively seeking his own 'unity' candidate to succeed him. Instead we are left with no choice at all, so the stalemate/madness will continue.

FOOTNOTE: After writing this, I received my daily Labour List email with a news item about Crowdpac's Policy Matchmaker, which I have just done and find myself pretty close to Owen Smith. I am 70% liberty and 71% left. No questions about defence or local government.

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