Labour leadership: challenge the candidates

Submitted by AWL on 5 February, 2020 - 12:01 Author: Mohan Sen

Rebecca Long-Bailey has challenged the other candidates to support the commitments to public ownership in the 2019 manifesto. Richard Burgon has argued for a new pro-public ownership Clause IV in the party constitution.

Keir Starmer has backed the 2019 manifesto’s plans for higher taxes on the rich and come out for re-establishing UK-EU free movement. Dawn Butler has written in the Guardian about scrapping anti-trade union laws, though on inspection what she means is pretty fuzzy.

Even rising challenger Lisa Nandy, who some see as the most plausible leadership candidate for a right-wing reaction in the party, has made mostly left-wing arguments. She was the first candidate to defend free movement.

Evidently wanting to move away from her “Leader’s Office continuity” image, Long-Bailey has said that she would widen the range of the Shadow Cabinet (presumably meaning she would bring in figures like Yvette Cooper).

The Labour leader elections continue to be muddy politically.

There are no standouts left candidates, certainly not ones without major problems politically. Workers’ Liberty conference voted by a big margin to back no candidate for leader, not yet anyway, and that still seems right to me.

We decided to quiz and press candidates on the fundamental question of democratising the party. Long-Bailey and Burgon have come out for “open selection” of MPs, but that’s pretty much it. Long-Bailey has made comments on paper about the compositing process at Labour conference which strongly implied she wanted to prevent delegates being stroppy about policy and causing difficulties for the leadership.

All of them talk as if policy is and should be something declared by the leader from on high. The idea of respecting and carrying out what conference decides, the notion that the party should controlled by its members, seems to be on the radar of none.

Likewise, despite the candidates all talking left, none has talked about a campaign — demonstrations, rallies, lobbies of Tory MPs — to restore the NHS now.

The class-struggle, internationalist socialist left needs to get better organised to use the election to promote radical policies, on democratisation but also issues like migrants’ rights, repealing the anti-union laws and various others. Initiatives like those launched by the Labour Campaign for Free Movement and Free Our Unions should be pushed harder.

A push on democracy and on policy is something that activists can cooperate on whichever leadership candidate they are backing. Affiliated unions are also in a very strong position to take it up.

• Leadership nominations as we go to press:
CLPs: Keir Starmer, 144; Rebecca Long-Bailey, 63; Lisa Nandy, 27; Emily Thornberry, 10
Unions: Keir Starmer, Unison, Community, USDAW; Rebecca Long-Bailey, Unite, CWU, FBU, Bakers; Lisa Nandy, GMB, NUM
• Deputy leadership nominations:
CLPs: Angela Rayner, 149; Dawn Butler, 36; Ian Murray, 25; Richard Burgon, 22; Rosena Allin-Khan, 12

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