Brown is well-placed to deal with the Corbyn surge
Shortly after Tony Blair was elected Labour leader in 1994 I bumped into my political hero Jack Jones at a book launch. What inspired me about Jones was that he understood that making gains for the working people he cared passionately about could only be done through a combination of industrial organisation and winning political power.
So, what I asked did he make of the new leader? He havered. He hadn’t made his mind up. Then a smile and a declaration: “Gordon Brown is a socialist.”This reminiscence was prompted by a reference to Brown on Newsnight by former Blair speech writer and Times columnist Phil Collins.
I had turned on Newsnight with low expectations. A smart young London MP had been booked to go on with Collins. A producer told her what she planned to say was “too reasonable.” Instead they had booked an old warhorse Diane Abbott.
The programme set out to examine the state of Blairism following the claim by CWU leader Dave Ward that Jeremy Corbyn would be an antidote to the Blairite “virus”. He was contradicted in a surefooted interview by Liz Kendall. What Labour really needs, she said, now is an “antidote to the Tories” .Then during the discussion with Abbott Collins said:“Winning power is crucial. Remember that great Gordon Brown speech in which he listed all the things that the Labour government had done… it was a long list. I don’t think any of that is conceivable under a Corbyn-led Labour party.”
It came as a bit of surprise a to hear a positive reference to Brown from someone seen (perhaps unfairly) as an arch Blairite. Collins, We have become used to seeing Blair and Brown as rivals, even enemies. My hero Jack Jones’ doubts about Blair and his preference for the “socialist” Brown looks prescient.
In fact, I think he was wrong. The Blair Brown partnership was enormously fruitful for Labour and for the country. The 1997 landslide was a victory for team Labour – brilliantly led, of course, by Blair – but with Brown chairing the key election strategy committee. They campaigned on a programme that drew on contributions from people who were to become the big beast of the Labour government.
Now is the time, perhaps, for Brown, who made such a decisive intervention in the Scottish referendum campaign to remind Labour party members of the importance of winning power.
Kieran Pedley is surely right to warn that having an unelectable leader in 2020 makes the prospects of victory in 2025 even more distant.
Brown has the example of his old friend Neil Kinnock who last week was urged by Peter Kellner appeal to intervene to save the party from Jeremy Corbyn. . Now Kinnock has come out in support of Andy Burnham. Labour would become a powerless “discussion group” under Corbyn. The party must not settle for angry opposition. We must focus on victory and choose a leader who can win.”
If all else fails it may be the lure of the allotment that saves Labour from getting an unelectable leader. . Corbyn told the People’s veteran political editor Nigel Nelson that if his leadership bid fails he would be happy to go back to growing his vegetables.
Don Brind is one of PB’s regular contributors