By Owen Riddle
The Labour Party has been a force for social justice and in general a force for good since its creation in 1900. The list of achievements for the good of the country and beyond is huge. From the Wheatley Housing Act from Labour’s first Prime Minister Ramsey McDonald in 1929, the Labour Party has introduced ‘cradle to grave’ welfare and the NHS under Attlee and Bevan with Labour’s post-war PM overseeing the dismantling of Empire. Harold Wilson’s administration from 1964 to 70 was crucial in modernising Britain from the Post-War era. The legalisation of Homosexuality and Abortion were achieved along with greater equality in divorce proceedings, the end of capital punishment and an end to censorship on top of the Race Relations Act and the inception of the Open University. Even within the thirteen years of New Labour, you can find successes such as the National Minimum Wage, Tax Credits, Civil Partnerships, Devolution and a peace settlement in Northern Ireland.
Without the Labour Party, Britain would be a far more unequal, dangerous and unjust place and sadly it seems that this upcoming Leadership Election seems set to be a fight for the party as opposed to a contest for the leadership.
The political landscape is an ever changing one and it has been changing to the detriment of Labour. The rise of the SNP in Scotland and UKIP in the regions of Yorkshire, North West and the North East along with the Conservatives reaping the benefits of a Liberal Democrat collapse severely threatens the party’s chances. This damage has occurred over the period from 2003-present and whoever leads the party must take Scotland seriously, not take the North for granted and convince those voters in the centre ground that the Labour Party has something to offer. There is also the small matter of the Green Party gradually taking votes from the Labour Party, which is amplified in close ‘swing’ seats where results are close. The role of pleasing so many divergent groups is further complicated by the massive division of the population between Leave and Remain after the EU referendum. This has made the Labour leadership election especially messy, aggressive and difficult. This is meant to be the opposite.
This is an impartial and factual guide to Angela Eagle, Owen Smith and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn. This is not a piece to tell you who to vote for, but to let you make up your own mind.
Angela Eagle – MP for Wallasey since 1992.
Hailing from Bridlington in East Yorkshire and from a Trade Union background, Angela Eagle is now regarded as a senior MP and figure in the Labour Party who has been a prominent figure in Shadow Cabinets and Government Cabinets over the last decade. She was most recently in the role of Shadow Secretary for Business, Innovation and Skills. She has also been Shadow Leader of the Commons under Ed Miliband and Exchequer Secretary in Government under Gordon Brown.
Political Hero: “I’m not a Blairite or a Brownite, I’m not even a Corbynista. I am my own woman.”
– Has consistently voted for military intervention in Iraq in 2003 and voted against any investigation into it. Voted for air strikes in Iraq and Syria too.
– Voted for the renewal of Trident.
– Voted for Tuition fees, but against their current £9000 pound limit.
– Voted for ID cards and stronger enforcement of immigration laws.
– Voted for a fully elected House of Lords, but was absent from votes on a Proportional Representation electoral system.
– Voted generally against privatisation of the NHS.
– Voted for Bankers Bonus Tax but against higher tax on banks.
– Voted against a reduction of benefits incl. Bedroom Tax, but abstained on others.
– Voted for and against measures to tackle tax avoidance.
“Fortunately for all of us … that colourful and lurid fiction has no real bearing on the macro-economic reality.” – when asked about the “extreme housing bubble” and an “impending recession”in 2008.
“I don’t think pacifism is a stance you can have as leader of a country.” The Guardian 2016.
“I’m as in favour of having a nuclear-free world as the next person,” she said. “I regret that over the last few years there hasn’t been more of an effort put into multilateral talks to reduce the stocks of nuclear weapons.”The Guardian 2016.
In certain ways, Eagle really does reflect true Labour values when you look at her policies on society, health policy and on protecting the rights of the worker and Trade Union movement. She says she is not a Blairite, but her steadfast support and defence of Iraq, support of policies such as ID cards and tuition fees suggest otherwise and she has just as potent business background as her Trade Union roots. She often takes a business-orientated approach and seemingly is reluctant to alter her views. The vast amount of her Parliamentary support in this leadership race comes from Blairites. She may not be one, but she is the Blairite candidate.
Owen Smith – MP for Pontypridd since 2010.
Born in Morecambe and raised in Barry, South Wales, Owen Smith had a background in the BBC and the pharmaceutical industry, namely working for Pfizer. Perhaps the most unknown candidate in the leadership race, Smith has only been an MP for six years. Despite this, he has already served as Shadow Secretary of State for Wales and Shadow Secretary of State for Work and Pensions under Ed Miliband and Jeremy Corbyn respectively.
Political Hero: Nye Bevan
– Voted for air strikes in Iraq, but has since voted against air strikes in Syria.
– Voted for renewal of Trident on one occasion, but did not vote on another two occasions.
– Voted against a £9000 tuition fee cap and a £6000 cap. Has voted against all tuition fees legislation since becoming an MP.
– Voted consistently against all legislation regarding stronger enforcement of immigration laws and against a stricter asylum system.
– Voted for a fully elected House of Lords, but was mostly absent from votes on a Proportional Representation electoral system albeit one vote in favour.
– Voted consistently against privatisation of the NHS.
– Voted for bankers bonus tax and for a higher tax on banks.
– Voted against reductions in benefit payments incl. Bedroom Tax.
– Voted against Conservative proposals to tackle tax avoidance and for Labour proposals on the same issue.
“We could get rid of it (Trident), but I fear that we can’t.” – When talking of his regret to renew it in 2015.
(When asked if he was for or against the Iraq War) “Against. I wasn’t in Parliament at the time, but I would have voted against. I was against it at the time.” 2016.
“We are making significant inroads in improving what is happening in Iraq…I thought at the time the tradition of the Labour Party and the tradition of left-wing engagement to remove dictators was a noble, valuable tradition, and one that in South Wales, from the Spanish Civil War onwards, we have recognised and played a part in…I don’t know whether I would have voted for it though.” 2006.
“Owen Smith’s and Jeremy Corbyn’s politics largely overlap when it comes to policy.” Kevin Maguire, Daily Mirror, 2016.
Despite claims from the far left keyboard warriors that he is another Blairite, Owen Smith’s voting record shows that to be wholly untrue and of the three candidates, Smith’s voting record is more aligned with Corbyn’s than Eagle’s. Any suggestion there is a conflict of interest between his pharmaceutical background and his NHS policy are immediately dismissed when you look at his voting record. One subtle difference between him and the veteran MP is on foreign policy and security with a difference in voting here or there. His approach and attitude is a cautious, but flexible one. Though he has differences with the Right of the party, he wishes to keep them on side and a degree of compromise between the two may be on the table.. Despite this, he is generally not backed by the Blairite wing of the party, but by the moderate and far left. Clearly a pragmatic person, he may look to exploit the fact he is not in the “Westminster Bubble” nor part of the “London Labour Party” which has been criticism attributed to Eagle and Corbyn respectively.
Jeremy Corbyn – MP for Islington North since 1983.
Born in Chippenham, Wiltshire and raised in Shropshire, Corbyn came from a background of Voluntary Service and Trade Unionism. He was elected to Haringey Council in 1974 at just 25 and worked on Tony Benn’s unsuccessful deputy leadership campaign in 1981. He had never held any Cabinet or Shadow Cabinet positions since his election as an MP in 1983, but rebelled over 428 times whilst Blair and Brown were in power. From 2011 to 2015 he was chair of Stop The War Coalition.
Political Heroes: Keir Hardy and Tony Benn
– Voted consistently against UK military intervention, against the Iraq War and voted for an investigation into it.
– Voted consistently against the renewal of Trident.
– Voted against a £9000 tuition fees cap and against tuition fees as a whole.
– Voted consistently against a stricter asylum system, against stronger enforcement of immigration laws and against ID cards.
– Voted consistently for a fully elected House of Lords and generally for a Proportional Representation electoral system.
– Voted consistently against privatisation of the NHS.
– Voted for a bankers bonus tax and for a higher tax on banks.
– Voted against reducing benefit payments incl. Bedroom Tax.
– Voted for Labour proposals to tackle tax avoidance.
“I’m a leader, not a dictator. I want to persuade people rather than threaten or control them.” 2015.
“I believe in public ownership, but I have never favoured the remote nationalised model of the postwar era.” 2015.
“I’m very proud of the fact that I voted against the Iraq war. And proud that I voted strongly not for students to be saddled with thousands and thousands of pounds worth of debt.” 2015.
“The Spanish Civil War, Britain was not involved in it. Going back a bit there was the naval blockade to stop the slave trade in the 19th century, that was morally just. Shame they didn’t both to abolish slavery at the same time.” When asked about conflicts other than the Second World War that he thought were a ‘moral conflict’. 2015.
There is absolutely no denying Jeremy Corbyn’s steadfast commitment to social justice across the UK and the world. In this cause he has been unwavering, but what has wavered is the backing of the majority of MPs. Indeed Blairites have been behind it, but they are joined by Soft Left and supposed ‘comrades’ of Corbyn. He has indeed surrounded himself with obtuse and unsavoury characters and this has had an impact, not least in the polls. He only polled higher than the Conservative leader when they were in turmoil and is now 8 points back in some cases. Polls tend to limit the potential support of the Tories as well. Voters in the regions see him as a Southern, London based campaigner out of touch with their concerns. He certainly has a problem in winning over the working classes and not just the left wing middle classes. He certainly did not cause the Labour decline in the North of the UK, he just hasn’t reversed it. The policies are there to win them over, but these cannot be delivered when the PLP is not willing to back him and deliver these aims. He still just about has the backing of the membership and a massive mandate before that. Blairites have had no intention of making Corbyn’s leadership succeed and they’ll have to once and for all if Corbyn is re-elected. His voting record is unblemished, his convictions as strong as before and his formidable character seriously underestimated. He can undoubtedly provide leadership, but the question is what kind of leadership are the Labour Party after?
Whatever the case, we at least know that whoever is leading the Labour Party at the end of the year will have a mandate and right to rule, unlike Theresa May. It is clear that many who were told they could vote, cannot and this is unacceptable. Around 500,000 people will get to vote however and we must all respect and accept their choice for they are from a plethora of backgrounds and situations. This guide has offered up the facts and with hope, that alone will dictate the ensuing debate.