The extraordinary last minute surge in people wanting to join, affiliate to or support the Labour Party ahead of the leadership election deadline, makes a Jeremy Corbyn victory very possible

Corbyn is an outlet for frustration after years of top down leadership where activists were told what the policy of the party was to be. But if Corbyn wins, what happens then? Well the first thing that will happen is the election of a Deputy Leader. The last two Deputy Leaders of the Labour Party have had important roles in a post that can often be pretty low profile. John Prescott was the party’s link with the working class and trade unions when middle class New Labour was all the rage. Since 2007 Harriet Harman has held the post being loyal to the leader and party and championing the cause of women.

Next month the deputy’s star is almost certainly going to be pinned on Tom Watson. I think it is an unimaginative choice and will leave the party with two men at the top. I discuss the other candidates below, but for the moment let us consider a Corbyn/Watson leadership because Corbyn’s opponents are already discussing how the left winger can be contained and many see Watson as the man to do it.

Watson is certainly a party bruiser with a background in the old Amalgamated Engineering Union. He called for Tony Blair to quit in 2006 and was forced to resign as Labour’s election coordinator in 2013 when he became embroiled in a row over the role of Unite in the Falkirk Labour selection contest.

One journalist has written that a Corbyn/Watson pairing would be like Trotsky and Stalin, a reference to the perception that Corbyn is an ideologue whilst Watson is a party fixer. The thought is that Watson will try and keep the party together organisationally during the expected mayhem of a Corbyn leadership.

Watson is certainly to the right of the potential leader. He wants a tougher line on immigration and Russia, and wants bigger Armed Forces. He probably has the toughness to stand up to Corbyn but it says much about the state of the party that some are looking for a deputy with the potential determination to remove his leader.


My choice for Deputy would have been Ben Bradshaw the MP for Exeter. One of the biggest challenges facing Labour is how to win in the South. In May Bradshaw’s big increase in the party’s vote in Exeter was in sharp contrast to its general failure in southern England. Bradshaw is a winner in a tough part of the country for Labour, and deserves a senior position in the party.

Liz Kendall is not going to become Labour leader and if Yvette Cooper fails too, the party will have two men in the leadership positions. This despite the fact that three credible women have put themselves forward for Deputy Leader, Stella Creasy, former minister and Don Valley MP Caroline Flint, and Wallasey’s Angela Eagle.

Eagle has been a voice of calm in recent days when many of her Labour MP colleagues have been calling for the election to be stopped or for candidates to stand down to stop Corbyn. There seems little prospect her voice will be heeded.

Follow me at





Tory papers, perhaps out to make trouble, are reporting this weekend that veteran left winger Jeremy Corbyn is ahead in private polling for the Labour leadership.

I don’t think it will happen but the speculation has been fuelled by the sort of thing that happened on the Victoria Derbyshire debate on BBC 2 this week. In front of an audience of potential, former and current Labour voters three of the four candidates faced a struggle to convince the audience that they were worth voting for. Time and again Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall set out their policy stances, but back came the same response that they weren’t inspiring people to vote Labour. Only Jeremy Corbyn got real gutsy rounds of applause when he called for a fight against austerity.

Sadly Liz Kendall seems to be trailing badly with her pro business stance and insistence on cutting the deficit. Andy Burnham is campaigning against the London based elite that he says has run the party for years, but he’s burdened by his past record on letting private firms into the health service. Yvette Cooper is banking on saying little, relying on her Cabinet experience as Secretary of State for Work and Pensions.

The problem for these three is that they are swimming against a left wing tide in the party that we have not seen since Michael Foot was elected leader in 1980. It was not a rational response to the election of Margaret Thatcher then, and is unlikely to be the right response to Cameron’s victory now. However the activists in the party have a right to express their views and elect who they want. Corbyn is catching that mood and the other three candidates are struggling with their various policy nuances, but with the basic belief that the deficit must be reduced and the Tories have caught the public mood on benefits.

Harriet Harman has hardly put a foot wrong in her long career. She has always kept in touch with the party mood and been popular with her commitment to women. It was therefore quite startling that at the very end of her time in front line politics she should have advocated a humiliating cave in to the Tories welfare reforms.

It posed one of the most difficult questions of our time, what is Labour for? Corbyn has his answer, fight austerity, support large families and ban nuclear weapons. The other three candidates have more complicated answers because they believe that is where Labour has to be to win back middle England.

Middle England, the elusive prize for Labour. What would they feel about Jeremy Corbyn leading the Labour Party? They would be more comfortable with a telegenic Burnham or perhaps a woman leading the party for the first time in Kendall or Cooper.

Meanwhile the Tories drive support to Corbyn with their latest proposals on strike ballots and having to opt into levy payments to the Labour Party. That goes down well in Middle and South East England where the tube strike wrecked havoc with people’s lives last week. But it angers grass roots Labour who feel they want to lash out, perhaps elect Corbyn and to hell with the consequences.




As if the heavy election defeat was not bad enough, the Labour leadership contest seems to me to have compounded the party’s problem. There is no sign of the fundamental debate Labour need. There is merely the usual rush by MPs to get behind one candidate or another. And a pretty uninspiring bunch of candidates they are, and I’m not the only one who thinks that. There are calls for a constitutional break clause so that if after three years the new leader isn’t doing the business, they can be sacked. That says it all about the quality of the field.

If we are talking about interim arrangements, Alan Johnson should have realised his duty and led the party for a couple of years to sort things out.

In the first place it was wrong for both Ed Miliband and Harriet Harmer to announce their resignations. In 2005 Michael Howard stayed on as leader of the Conservative Party for six months after his General Election defeat so that the Tories could hold their inquest. Hustings were held at the party conference and voting took place afterwards.

Labour has rushed into a leadership contest were the focus is on the personalities and not on the huge questions the party should be discussion. They include, should there be a separate Scottish Party with a similar relationship to Labour as the SDLP in Northern Ireland, and should feelers be put out to the Greens and Lib Dems about a grand union of the left.

If that’s too bold they need to work out how they are going to appeal to left leaning Scots, UKIP leaning blue collar workers in the north, and aspirational voters in the south all at the same time. Do you hear any of the leadership candidates addressing that multi headed question?


If it wasn’t to be David Miliband in 2010 then I thought Andy Burnham would have been the right choice. He remains a really nice bloke that every Mum wants to cuddle but it pains me to say that he would be the wrong choice this time. I’ve reached this conclusion because of the scale of Labour’s defeat in Scotland and the South. In Scotland Burnham will just be seen as another English leader whilst in the South there will be suspicion about his union links. His declaration that he is “Labour through and through” plays well for a leadership election but not in Oxford, Swindon and Southampton. His insistence that the NHS played such a central role in the campaign didn’t work and he will always be encumbered by introducing a measure of privatisation when he was Health Secretary.

Yvette Cooper is probably counting on coming through the middle as most people’s second choice. This may explain her colourless campaign. The plan seems to be say as little as possible. My problem with Cooper is that she is colourless and lacking in ideas and would be wholly unsuited to be leader at this time of great challenge for Labour.

Jeremy Corbyn had to be helped into the contest by MPs nominating him although they have no intention of voting for him. What a daft system! At least Corbyn is not colourless but his left wing views disqualify him from consideration.

So we come to Liz Kendall who I very reluctantly support because of the absence of Dan Jarvis, Chukka Umunna and Alan Johnson. The party in England has to move back to the centre and she represents that position. She is relatively untainted by Labour’s past. It is a gamble as she lacks stature big time. But then again when Michael Howard finally stood down in December 2005, how many saw the posh boy from the Bullingdon Club as a two term Prime Minister.