Zoe Williams correctly states that Jeremy Corbyn’s election as Labour leader in 2015 “should hardly have come as a surprise” (What Labour members really care about in this leadership race is ideas, 8 January). Despite Labour’s dreadful election defeat, Corbyn deserves enormous credit for enabling Labour to become a radical party again.
In July 2015, under the temporary leadership of the usually admirable Harriet Harman, the party had so lost direction that MPs were told to vote for the government’s welfare bill which cut child tax benefits and household welfare entitlement. I cannot see any of the current leadership contenders supporting such a move. As Williams says, they offer “versions of leftwing analysis that are genuinely different”.
The candidates all offer a radical alternative to the Johnson government. Whoever is chosen as leader, it is imperative (and should be possible) for the parliamentary party to unite behind him or her. The refusal of so many Labour MPs to support Corbyn in his early days as leader was manna to the Tories. The parliamentary party must not make the same mistake again.
Dr Chris Morris
• Zoe Williams is right that most Labour members are interested in political ideas rather than internal factions. And she identifies the candidates who are giving fresh versions of modern leftwing analysis.
But I, and many others, also want a leader who can effectively hold this rightwing Johnson government to account – and who is able to lead, unite and motivate members all over the UK so that Labour wins in 2024.
The two candidates mentioned by Williams as more associated with power blocs don’t meet these tests for me. Careful use of language matters. Jess Phillips’ sweary Twitter feed is neither unifying nor motivating for members or voters. Rebecca Long-Bailey’s assessment of Corbyn’s leadership, no doubt well-intentioned (Long-Bailey scores Corbyn ‘10 out of 10’ as she launches campaign, 7 January), is not to me evidence of the critical thinking the next leader needs. So ideas matter to Labour members. But so do intelligence, verbal skills and character.
• What Zoe Williams overlooks in her criticism of the way ideas are developed within the Labour party is that the views of the membership are all too often ignored in favour of the preferences of the leadership, the big unions and the cliques that surround them. For example, all the polls indicated quite clearly that the Labour membership favoured remain in the Brexit debate over the last few years. Yet the Labour leadership chose to ignore these views and drive through alternative Brexit policies via a clever juggling of the makeup of the NEC and a system of a “show of hands” at conference.
Any new Labour leader will improve Labour’s credibility hugely if they committed to complete Ed Miliband’s democratisation of the party and deliver one-member-one-vote on all significant policy decisions, which should no longer be left to the NEC or “delegates”.
Midhurst, West Sussex
• Zoe Williams is wrong if she thinks the Labour leadership election should be all about the wishes of party members. Part of the problem is that the outgoing leadership and supporting factions have spent too much time obsessing about the sanctity of the membership, boasting about “the movement” being the biggest in Europe, rather than concentrating on the wishes of the wider electorate.
A new leader must address the ideas and attitudes of the millions of voters the party needs if it is ever to form a government. In voting for a new leader, members should think less about what satisfies their own sense of destiny and more about how they win back those lost seats. It is not a question of right, left or centre, but about dogmatism or pragmatism. Successful leaders have always embraced the latter, while those adhering to the former have invariably crashed in flames.
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