DAN HODGES: Labour needs a leader who's prepared to kill terrorists

DAN HODGES: Labour needs a leader who's prepared to kill terrorists

12/22/2019

DAN HODGES: Labour needs a leader who’s prepared to kill terrorists – and doesn’t bang on about Greta Thunberg…

‘If we get this wrong, it’s over,’ the Labour MP told me. ‘If a continuity Corbyn candidate wins the leadership, then we can just shut the shop. The Labour Party will be finished.’

In which case, they may as well just nail the ‘To Let’ sign on the door of the party’s Victoria Street HQ this morning. Labour is going out of business.

Here’s what Keir Starmer – one of the supposedly moderate leadership contenders – said on Wednesday when invited to give his analysis of Labour’s worst defeat since 1935: ‘A Labour Party that strays too far from its values loses. In the end, the Labour Party strayed too far from its values between 1997 and 2010.’

The next Labour leader needs to tell their party to shut up. Shut up about the Palestinians. Shut up about Greta Thunberg (pictured). Shut up about Northern Ireland customs forms

On the man who led Labour to political oblivion – as opposed to three successive, but apparently valueless, Election victories – he said: ‘What Jeremy Corbyn brought to the Labour Party in 2015 was a change in emphasis that was really important – a radicalism that matters. We need to build on that rather than simply say, ‘Let’s now oversteer and go back to some bygone age.’ We need to build on that radicalism.’

Rebecca Long Bailey is cited as the Continuity Corbynite candidate

The car is on fire, on its roof, in a ditch. But Starmer is worried about ‘over-steering’. As are the rest of the contenders. Rebecca Long Bailey is cited as the Continuity Corbynite candidate. But the truth is they are all Continuity Corbynites now.

Take Jess Phillips. If she could drop her over-rehearsed ‘I never saw a banana or a £50 note or an inside toilet until I came down to London’ shtick, she could potentially give Boris and the Tories a run for their money.

But this is what she was tweeting last week: ‘Don’t worry about which sort of Labour you are, if you want rid of Johnson’s Government and want a say in how, join now.’

Don’t worry about what sort of Labour you are? Did Jess Phillips sleep through Election night?

Up and down the country, dozens of her colleagues were being sent packing by people who looked at Labour and couldn’t recognise the same party their parents and grandparents had voted for.

But this is where we’re heading. Under cover of appeals for ‘unity’ and an end to ‘factionalism’, this contest is already being framed as a rerun of the disastrous Owen Smith leadership challenge of 2016. Complete with a rehash of his iconic platform ‘Corbynism is fresh and radical. I support lots of what Jeremy is doing. Dump Jeremy.’

Take Jess Phillips (pictured). If she could drop her over-rehearsed ‘I never saw a banana or a £50 note or an inside toilet until I came down to London’ shtick, she could potentially give Boris and the Tories a run for their money

This is not a moment for unity, but a moment for unrestrained, savage score-settling. Senior Labour MPs shouldn’t be issuing saccharine-coated entreaties to the Corbynites. They should be hurling themselves with unbridled fury at the parasites who have infested one of the great political institutions of Western democracy and driven it to the brink of destruction.

Or, if they can’t bring themselves to do that, perhaps they could learn from them.

When Jeremy Corbyn was elected in 2015, he didn’t control the party’s ruling NEC. He didn’t control the Shadow Cabinet. He didn’t control the membership. He had nothing but an uncompromising (if warped) vision of what he wanted the Labour Party to become. There was no attempt to work the angles, or ‘talk right’ to create the space to move Left. He planted a flag in the ground. And people rallied to it.

No one from Labour’s supposedly moderate wing is going to be planting any flags. The best I could get from one MP was a lukewarm commitment to ‘doing a Kinnock’. By which they meant they hoped the new leader would start off parroting Corbynism, then move in increments towards a position of greater electability.

Sadly, there are a number of flaws with this strategy. Kinnock was a seasoned politician, rooted in his party and his movement. Rebecca Long Bailey and Keir Starmer have been MPs for just four years. As has Jess Phillips, who has never held so much as a junior shadow ministerial brief. Lisa Nandy – a relative veteran – has served as a member of the Shadow Cabinet for the sum total of nine months.

A second problem with replicating the Kinnock Strategy is the original was underpinned by quite a lot of losing. It took Kinnock a decade to drag his party into a place where it could even think of mounting a realistic challenge for power.

So if Labour MPs are happy to forgo the next Election and the one after that, and then have a pop at unseating Boris around 2033, they might be on the right track.

There is also one other crucial difference. Neil Kinnock did actually care about what sort of Labour you were.

If you were a member of Militant, you were out. You didn’t get praised for the ‘energy’ you were bringing to your party. You weren’t given licence to play out your student union political fantasies on a national political stage. You were sent packing.

Tories took NO chances

The team conducting the Tory Party canvassing ‘ground war’ certainly weren’t taking anything for granted. ‘Some of our guys were out door-knocking and this Australian answered the door,’ a Minister tells me.

‘So they said, ‘Can we count on your support?’ And he said, ‘I’m Lynton Crosby, I helped run the last two Tory Election campaigns.’ And they replied, ‘We know, Sir Lynton, but we have to make sure.’ ‘

I think they put him down as a leaning Tory.

There is no need for a great internal debate, or prolonged period of introspection. If Labour is to have even a snowball in hell’s chance of forming a government at some point over the next decade, what has to happen next is obvious to everyone.

It’s time to clean house. Ditching Corbyn will not be enough. They all have to be driven out. He has to go. Momentum have to go. The whole viper’s nest has to go. Now is not the moment to ‘build a big tent’, it’s the moment to burn the tent to the ground. And then draw some clear lines amid the ashes.

When asked if they would use Britain’s nuclear deterrent, the next Labour leader needs to say ‘yes’. When asked if they would order police to shoot to kill terrorists running amok on the streets of Britain, the next Labour leader needs to say ‘yes’. When asked if they would back environmental crusaders breaking the law to make their voices heard, the next Labour leader needs to say ‘no’.

Then they need to tell their party to shut up. Shut up about the Palestinians. Shut up about Greta Thunberg. Shut up about Northern Ireland customs forms.

And start listening to what people in Bolsover and Sedgefield and Barrow actually care about, rather than what Corbyn and his cultists have spent four years telling them they should care about.

There can be no more acts of appeasement. Or attempts to reach an accommodation, or agree some sort of uneasy truce.

Whoever takes over as leader has one final chance to prove that even after its most shattering defeat for the best part of a century, the Labour Party is still worth fighting for.

Does it matter what sort of Labour you are? Yes, Jess. It matters an awful lot.

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