Valued by many countrywide and local people who elect him with a resounding 21,000 majority, Jim Pickard, the FT’s chief political correspondent reports that polls now place the MP for Islington North as ‘frontrunner’ to become the next leader of the Labour Party.
Mr Pickard reported that Labour MPs were shocked by the sheer extent of Jeremy Corbyn’s “first round” lead: at 43% of votes — against 26% for Andy Burnham, 20% for Yvette Cooper and 11% for Liz Kendall. The YouGov poll then pointed to a narrower advantage for the Islington North MP at the final round of the contest — at just 53% to 47% for Mr Burnham. He adds that the depth of support for his candidacy, leading to Wednesday’s YouGov poll showing him to be the likely winner on September 12 has astonished Mr Corbyn.
As Ken Livingstone, former mayor of London and Labour MP put it: “After plugging away in parliament, supporting all the right issues, he suddenly finds himself with a massive wave of support.”
Pickard notes that Mr Corbyn has “often been on the right side of history”:
- supporting the jailed Nelson Mandela,
- defending the Guildford Four and Birmingham Six — groups wrongly convicted of the 1974 pub bombings,
- opposing the Iraq war,
- speaking up for Mordechai Vanunu, imprisoned in Israel for revealing its secret nuclear weapons programme,
and we add:
- speaking to groups reflecting “the full range of political opinion in both Israel and Palestine”
- and keeping dialogue open with Irish republicans: “jaw jaw, instead of war, war”.
Advice from Blair and his minions
One of many other anecdotes of the ‘panic-stricken’ concerns John McTernan, an adviser to the former Labour prime minister Tony Blair, who is said to have rounded on the 35 MPs who nominated Mr Corbyn, branding them “morons”.
The appalling prospect of a leader who might not Whip his party into submission
Emily Thornberry, MP for neighbouring Islington South, said she had a lot of respect for Mr Corbyn, who is a “lovely, friendly, relaxed” person: “My concern is whether he has the experience necessary to negotiate common lines for the official opposition . . . Politics is the art of the possible and has to involve compromises, and the next leader can’t let people say whatever they like.”
Ken Livingstone’s comment on this suggestion: “Under Blair we had a load of ghastly clones just there to represent corporate interests”. If there are people who joined the party just because they wanted to get rich and get nice corporate jobs after leaving government, perhaps we would be better off without them.”
A level-headed response
Mr Corbyn said his campaign was going well but talk of his victory was premature. As for Mr Blair’s criticism, he said it was “rather silly”, adding: “Surely we should be talking about the situation facing Britain today, the situation facing many of the poorest people in this country today, and maybe think if our policies are relevant.”
My neighbour’s unsolicited verdict today at lunch: “If Corbyn is elected I might rejoin the Labour Party”.