After the general election, only the most bigoted of Labour MPs will not regard Jeremy Corbyn as a great campaigner. If it were not for his energy and drive the party would not have achieved such commendable results, and a large number of members who thought he wasn’t up to the job owe their seats to his efforts.
However, there could well be a comparison with the abilities and inabilities needed to be a successful prime minister in the shape of Keir Hardie, who, according to Philip Snowden’s 1934 autobiography, after winning the leadership of the parliamentary Labour party by one vote, recognised, in his own words, that “nature never intended me to occupy an official position”, going on to state that he was “not guided so much by a consideration of policy or by thinking out a long sequence of events as by intuition and inspiration. I know what I believe to be the right thing, and I can and I will do it.”
The strength of Jeremy, in my view, is both his energy and his being a nice person, together with his ability to take the occasional insult and turn the other cheek – and, like Keir Hardie, to get on with what he believes to be his mission. This he admirably demonstrated during the campaign, but he falls short, in my view, of winning over more than the faithful rather than a wider canvass of the electorate. Although perhaps lacking the ability to be the prime minister, he is certainly a capable and valuable asset in any future Labour administration.
Labour, House of Lords
• Almost immediately Jeremy Corbyn was elected party leader many MPs and other “senior Labour figures” started a campaign to undermine his credibility and to remove him from his position. This continued until the election was called and they all suddenly went quiet – quite unconnected, I’m sure, to their desire to hang on to their own seats.
As it turned out Mr Corbyn and his team ran an excellent campaign and turned what looked likely to be a crushing defeat into a close-run thing with a minority Conservative government.
Afterwards David Blunkett said that Corbyn must reach out to those in the party who have not supported him. Strange logic – surely those who have spent two years conducting guerrilla warfare need to reach out to Mr Corbyn? Now Chris Leslie (Report, theguardian.com, 10 June) says that Labour “should have won” the election (implicitly blaming Corbyn for this “failure”).
I agree. Labour should have won, and if Mr Leslie wants to find out why they didn’t, a good place to start looking might be the mirror.
• Within 12 months two of our senior politicians appear to have been totally unaware of the mood of the people they serve. I find this disturbing.
I have never voted Labour, and have no intention of doing so, but I do see that Jeremy Corbyn appears to have an empathy and understanding of the electorate which has been very successful.
All politicians, whatever their persuasion, should demonstrate a greater understanding of the common man, rather than the arrogant, pompous, superior attitude often displayed. Few of them command much respect from those they represent – a worrying trait among those who choose to make our laws.
• Polly Toynbee undermines her otherwise constructive piece (Opinion, 13 June) by suggesting that Labour should embrace proportional representation.
Labour has just started to assemble the sort of broad left-of-centre coalition required to win the next general election. Electors who have previously supported various small parties are realising that they can only beat the Tories if they combine to help maximise the Labour vote. PR encourages the self-preservation of existing small parties and the creation of new ones. By splintering the anti-Tory vote, it would help keep the Tories in power. Those who want Labour to win should ignore the PR illusion and join the thousands of new and old Labour members in working together for the new government that the people so desperately need.
• Everyone in the elite establishment on both sides of the argument, particularly the press, seems to be out of touch with “ordinary people”. While you were all arguing about personalities, we went out and talked about policies.
My 70-year-old husband and I went on a march with our 17-year-old granddaughter to save our NHS and stop the education cuts. I knocked on neighbours’ doors and delivered leaflets, and my husband, who has a torn muscle in his calf, traipsed up and down the streets proposing a better future for our worn-out children and grandchildren, who should not be reliant on how rich we are to get a good education and healthcare.
With a 6,000 majority I’m sure that most of the Tories in our area, Warwick and Leamington, had put their feet up and got the champagne on ice. But Labour won.
Stop talking to each other and start talking to us, because that’s what Jeremy Corbyn did.
Bishops Tachbrook, Warwickshire
• If Owen Jones wants people to stop treating Corbynistas like a cult (First thoughts, theguardian.com, 13 June) then he and they should stop using the language of religion in describing Corbyn and the “movement”. I campaigned for a Labour victory, and fully support the economic policies set out in the manifesto. However, healthy scepticism is an essential part of democracy and I have yet to meet anyone – including enthusiastic Corbyn supporters (my children!) – who support every aspect of current policy. That is how a healthy political party should be. The Labour party is not the Communist party of the Soviet Union and Jeremy Corbyn is not Kim Jong-un. I will continue to support Corbyn but reserve the right to dissent when I think he is wrong. Is that a thoughtcrime in Jones’s new model party?
• Both wings of Labour must quickly build bridges. We centrists must admit we were wrong about Jeremy Corbyn’s ability to win electoral support and his suitability to be leader or prime minister. We must offer all assistance to the task of securing a Labour victory. And he and his team must show magnanimity in the heat of victory by welcoming former critics back on to the shadow frontbench and making clear to their supporters that Labour is and always has been a broad church that tolerates and even celebrates a wide range of opinions.
This is important for two reasons. First, Jeremy Corbyn will be able to show the country that he leads not only a unified party but one that represents all strands of Labour thinking. Second, it is a point of electoral maths that to win a majority, Labour must attract people who voted Conservative. It can only do this with the centrists on board.
Pragmatic Radicalism, the policy forum I co-founded in 2011, sought to bring different parts of the party and others together to develop policy ideas. As a backbencher, Jeremy Corbyn spoke at our 2012 Top of the Policies event on defence, chaired by Jim Murphy, the then shadow defence secretary. Such debates, in a spirit of openness and respect, are needed more than ever now. I hope that Jeremy might even chair one of our events in this new parliament.
Chair, Pragmatic Radicalism
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