20 July 2015

#ToriesForLiz – a letter to Labour's party members and registered supporters

Life since our epic victory on May 8th has been a bit like recovering from Christmas lunch – having gorged myself on christmas pudding, goose (of course) and canvassing I've been struggling to find the enthusiasm for things like charades, EVEL and reform of the Human Rights Act. But I was jolted out of the obligatory post-election / Queen’s Speech snooze when my local MP Sadiq Khan livened things up by nominating Jeremy Corbyn for your leadership contest.
Corbyn's opposition to PFI and the Iraq War always struck me as principled and decent, but politically he makes Ed Miliband look like pure box-office. So when the midday deadline for nominations passed tribalism duly kicked in: I downloaded my 'Corbyn for Leader' twibbon (apparently that's how you lefties do things) and began to tweet excitedly about Brother Jeremy. Although being really honest I can't say I had any intention of parting with the £3 needed to become a registered supporter of the Labour Party – #JezWeCan and your open primary didn't seem like my business.

And your leadership options aren't exactly inspiring. Andy Burnham was in charge of the nation's purse strings when the public finances started to run out of control and – uncomfortably for him – he failed to act over the Mid-Staffs abuse scandal when he was Secretary of State for Health. His schtick is scaremongering about Tory privatisation of the NHS. Good luck with that: we are pro-market because we believe that is the way to drive up care standards, which is perhaps why Burnham himself oversaw the privatisation of Hinchinbrooke Hospital.

Yvette, on the other hand, is too.... bleugh. She's been at the frontline of British politics for so long I suspect she's running because there's a weight of incumbency as a competent shadow frontbencher, with the Balls / Cooper leadership dilemma conveniently resolved courtesy of Lynton Crosby. There's an unthinking machine politics about Yvette's leadership bid that just seems so dull. Having spent months pounding the streets and towerblocks of Battersea and Tooting I'm pretty confident neither she nor Andy will be PM come 2020.

So Liz Kendall strikes me as the only candidate who can steer Labour back in the direction of sanity. Yet the rank and file of the Labour movement seems hell-bent on monstering a woman who believes we need to invest in our defences at a time when ISIL and Putin are turning up the heat, and who acknowledges that the last Labour government left a welfare system that was unsustainable – views (may I diplomatically add) that were endorsed by the electorate a couple of months ago. Tony Blair is your only leader to have won two full terms in office, yet Liz is made to wear the term 'Blairite' like a badge of shame.

To us Tories this flirtation with the political wilderness is utter madness. If you want to feel radical and unelectable book Owen Jones for a fundraiser – or join the Greens. Liz (currently tanking at 11/1 with the bookies) is the one we think will give us the biggest run for our money. She is a decent woman and has been honest about the importance of the markets in improving our public services. Kendall will bring a voice to opposition that Britain needs, and my decision to cough up three quid and vote was driven by a desire for healthy debate across the political divide at a time when a worrying number of your movement seem more comfortable ranting about the bedroom tax and wishing Charlotte Church was running for leader.

Liz probably won't win, but your AV ballot means I get to express a second preference, which will go to Jeremy Corbyn. Choosing anyone other than Kendall means the Labour party really does need euthanising – and we Tories are a compassionate lot these days. Far better to rip off the plaster with one quick movement than spend years peeling it inch by inch. And don't blame me – just have a good look at Sadiq, who wanted your lunatic element to have a voice (no voice for Tristram Hunt's aspirational John Lewis set, mind). With judgement like that it's safe to say I won't be giving him my vote for the London Mayoralty.

Of course there is another option: the Tories are a broad church. We 'invented' modern state education in the way you 'invented' the NHS, not all of us eat babies for breakfast, and we don't talk about Europe – much. And as a bonus, there's almost certainly a literature delivery round waiting for you at your local Conservative Association!

First published by Labour Uncut on July 20th, 2015