Leader comment: What does Labour really stand for?

Jeremy Corbyn is facing a challenge to his leadership. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
Jeremy Corbyn is facing a challenge to his leadership. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
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Less than a year ago the talk from new Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was of a “gentler, kinder” politics. That has long been lost in the increasingly ­bitter and acrimonious war that has engulfed the party over its leadership.

Bricks through windows and accusations of anti-Semitism, sexism and verbal intimidation have marked this vituperative wrangle. Now a mini-feud has broken out between the camps of rival contenders Angela Eagle and Owen Smith, with accusations of bullying and “sneaky tactics”. Mr Smith wants Angela Eagle to step aside. Ms Eagle says she launched her leadership challenge first.

What of the ideas and policies of the leadership contenders? It is hard to distinguish amid the all-too-familiar rhetoric of “bold new visions” and “radical agendas” what in fact differentiates them.

What is clear is that in splitting the anti-­Corbyn vote, the likelihood of the current leader winning the leadership ballot can only gain strength.

Contenders surely need to set out in some detail what their ideas and policies are and what in their view makes them different and better. Great movements in politics are always about ideas. And it is ideas that the contenders for the Labour leadership now need to set out to justify their claims that they can win not only this leadership battle but also the hearts and minds of voters who have deserted Labour in droves in recent years.

Last week the new Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May sought to position herself squarely in the centre ground. That leaves the Labour leadership rivals with enormous questions to answer on what exactly the party stands for.