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Corbyn’s successor? Whoever she is, competence won’t be an issue


FRESH from questioning the assumption that the EU will go on for ever, I consider whether other things are as permanent as they appear.

Perhaps it is time to start the speculation about who will lead the Labour Party next. Jeremy Corbyn, like everyone else, is not getting any younger. It might be idle, if not offensive, to speculate on his health, but I do not know of any political leader in British history who has a four-day working week reportedly programmed into his schedule, nor indeed one who has taken a holiday, later corrected as a ‘long weekend‘ by his reality-adjusting spokesman, at an unusual time as Corbyn did during the 2016 Referendum campaign.

It might be quite tasteless to point out the mortality of Leaders of the Opposition. But more Labour party leaders have died in office than the leaders of all the other UK parties combined.

Corbyn might not leave office due to ill-health or death. It’s just that his Soviet-like cult of personality indicates that those are the only ways he would do so.

So who would succeed Corbyn?

It would seem it has to be a woman, simply because all other major political parties, and most of the minor ones, have successfully elected a woman leader with the embarrassing exception of Labour. Embarrassing, because Labour touts itself as the ‘party of equality’, but that seems to have hit a roadblock when it comes to the sex of its leader. Of course, women have led Labour, but only when there has not been a man immediately ready and able to do the job.

It is not actually the fault of the Labour Party that it has never elected a woman leader. Not having a woman in charge has actually been the curious preserve of a European socialism that promotes egalitarianism when in power. None of the countries which were members of the Communist bloc ever had a woman leader. It might be argued that these countries practised collective leadership, but we know that power always ended up being concentrated in one man, however good the intentions were. The split between men and women on the numerous central committees was never 50:50, and was usually, if not almost exclusively, 100:0. When Khrushchev dominated the Politburo of the USSR, the only woman allowed around the table was strongly rumoured also to have been his mistress.

So which Labour women would be in the running? Emily Thornberry seems the rational choice and a safe pair of hands (for a socialist), but she does not seem to be inside the Corbyn tent, however much she appears to share Corbyn’s ideology. It is not clear if she has emerged entirely unscathed from her gaffe during the 2014 Rochester by-election campaign.

Unlike Lady Nugee, Angela Rayner and Jess Phillips both have authentic traditional working-class credentials, and could thus be elected as the first working-class Labour leader in 35 years. However they too seem to be outside the Corbyn tent.

Cat Smith and Rebecca Long-Bailey both seem to be in the tent, and Long-Bailey seems to have similar working-class credentials as well. The internet seems rather coy on the subject of Cat Smith’s early life.

Dawn Butler could be another in-tent contender, if not the favourite. She seems to have displaced Diane Abbott as Corbyn’s right-hand woman at Prime Minister’s Questions. The daughter of immigrants from East London, she could be to be the one to beat and would be a response by Labour should Sajid Javid become our next Prime Minister.

Observant readers will have noticed that I have been focusing on identity before actual suitability, but then, with the exception of Party Leader, this is what Labour appears to do these days. A Constituency Labour Party recently voted in a man transwoman as a women’s officer, presumably in the name of ‘equality‘. Since the departure of Gordon Brown, the race to be party leader has been an ideological beauty contest, ignoring inconvenient factors such as the ability to win General Elections.

In terms of electability, Emily Thornberry would be the clear winner. In an informal poll of some of my fellow writers she was the automatic choice. However, considerations such as experience and competence do not seem to apply to Labour Party members. After all, they are the ones who elected Jeremy Corbyn. Twice.

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Paul T Horgan
Paul T Horgan
Paul T Horgan worked in the IT Sector. He lives in Berkshire.

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