My recent column in the The Scotsman where I argue Jeremy Corbyn is the wrong leader for the Labour Party. 

Two political leaders gave big speeches earlier this week.

One, at the end of his career as an elected politician, was graceful, thoughtful, optimistic for the future of his country.

The other was Jeremy Corbyn.

I don’t want to labour Corbyn’s shortcomings. His inability to lead the Labour Party into the next general election, let alone a victory when we get there, is self evident. He is, quite simply, the wrong person for the job.

Now, more than ever at any point in its long and often proud history, Labour needs a Barack Obama.

The Labour Party is in thrall to the biggest crisis of its long, and proud history.

Bigger than Ramsay McDonald’s ‘treachery’.

Worse than the 1983 suicide note that was Michael Foot’s manifesto.

Scarier than the 1992 election when John Major snatched victory from Neil Kinnock.

The Labour Party is on the verge of becoming unelectable, of becoming as irrelevant as the Sinclair ZX Spectrum computer, at a time when progressive politics are more needed than ever. More than even in 1945, in the wake of the world’s bloodiest-ever war.

Hyperbole? No, I point simply to Pasok, the Greek democratic socialist party, which until a few years ago was one of the two major parties in Greece.

In 2009 it won the Greek general election with nearly 44 percent of the popular vote.  In the 2015 election it won less than five per cent of the votes. It most recent poll rating puts it at 6 per cent.

People across the UK are rightly full of anger at an elite which caused and then prospered from the great crash of 2008.

Globalisation may thrill the Davos crowd, but it scares most citizens.

Average earnings are still £20 a week less than they were before the crash according to the respected Resolution Foundation.

A home of your own, something my generation took for granted, and which many are now busy reaping the capital rewards from, is but a distant dream for most millennials.

Their living nightmare is sky high rents in an exploitative, short-term job market.

Our NHS – in Scotland, just as it is in England – could easily collapse under the weight of impossibly high expectations, an ageing population and structures not fit for the end of the 20th century, let alone the mid 21st century.

And here in Scotland, the political debate is stuck on the constitution.

Nicola Sturgeon responds to criticism of her government’s neglect of public services and the economy with a sneer and her constant refrain: “it’s independence, stupid’’.

Sorry, First Minister. #indyref is 2014’s hashtag.

Yes, the people want to be fairly governed, but that applies equally to the citizens of Yorkshire as to the voters of Greater Glasgow.

In 2017 people want strong public services, which we are willing to pay for, but in exchange we want our children, and grand-children, to get an education that equips them for real life.

We expect our NHS to care for us and our family from the cradle to the grave, and that includes those pesky last few years, when many of us are too frail to look after ourselves.

We want the marketplace to be properly regulated, so that banks, energy companies and others cannot rip us off.

We want Amazon, Starbucks et al, to pay their fair share of taxes, and to offer a fair day’s pay in exchange for our hard work.

We want roads without potholes, wifi as good as Estonia’s, trains we can afford and that run on time.

We want safe streets, a safe country, a safer world.

In 1945, 1964 and again in 1997 the Labour Party offered a glimpse of that world.

Today, all the Labour Party can offer is a left wing Trump.

Seriously? Is this what the People’s Party has come to, stealing the clothes of a foul-mouthed despot?

If so, it is not the party I joined in 1980, at the start of the Thatcher revolution. Nor, I suggest, does it speak for the majority of members who joined before May 2015.

Travel, it is said, gives you a better perspective of home.

I am currently travelling round the European Union in a campervan with my husband. We plan to visit each of the 28 Member States before the end of the year.

The view I have of British politics, of the Labour Party, from the eastern edge of Europe, is not a pretty one.

British politics are not alone in their existential crisis.

Look at the USA, where a good man is being followed by a dangerous buffoon. France, where fascism has blonde highlights, and Hungary where it is loud and proud. As for gangsta Russia…

Democracy is in dire straits.

But it remains the best way to organise societies. However, for it to prosper, it requires strong political parties, with respected leaders and realistic policy objectives. The people deserve nothing less.

The UK Labour Party offers instead confusion. Worse, incompetent confusion.

Is there a way back?

It was a heartlfelt question I asked myself on the morning of Friday 10th April 1992 after Labour’s unexpected defeat.

It turned out there was, and we were led back into power by a new generation of Labour politicians, people like Blair, Harman and Brown.

I am not arguing for a revival of New Labour. Its time has been and gone.

I am, however, saying what the Labour Party needs is a new generation of politicians, people who can provide progressive, thoughtful, energetic leadership. A dash of charisma wouldn’t go amiss either.

Scottish Labour is one step ahead of the UK party with Kez Dugdale, but sadly, she is hampered by Corbyn’s misrule.

Labour – and the country as a whole – needs a vision for our children’s future, not nostalgia for our parents’ past. We need to shape public services for 2025, not 1945.

We need economic policies that work in the global market, and protect workers at home.

We need to govern our communities, our regions, our nations fairly. Dugdale’s call for a new Act of Union is a first step, but the devolution revolution can’t stop at Hadrian’s Wall.

Surely it is not beyond the wit of the people of the United Kingdom, the world’s most successful political and social union, to come up with a modern system of governance that empowers all its constituent parts, from the great city of London to the North East of England, and beyond.

And, after decades of reflection, I now believe our political system requires a healthy does of proportional representation.

Love them or hate them, UKIP won four million votes in the 2015 elections and got only Douglas Carswell.

Little wonder its supporters made sure their voice was heard, loud and clear, in the 2016 EU referendum.

It will take time for the Labour Party to rebuild itself.  To paraphrase Obama, it will be hard, contentious, and sometimes bloody.

It may require not one, or even two, new leaders. The Tories had to wade through Hague, Howard and IDS before alighting on Cameron.

It will require new thinking. The idea of a basic citizen’s wage – a policy promoted by the SDP back in the day – deserves more attention for example. And we must find a better way to care for older people than the current shambolic system.

It may require a progressive alliance with others who want to build a strong, prosperous, fair United Kingdom.

We should not be afraid to govern in solidarity with people who share our core values and principles, if not our traditions and history.

But first it requires Corbyn to go. With the same dignity, respect and class that Obama is displaying as he exits the White House.

Sadly, I am not holding my breath.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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