Jeremy Corbyn U-turn on annual election vow

LABOUR leadership frontrunner Jeremy Corbyn has ditched a key pledge to party members that he would stand for re-election every year to “bring back democracy” in the Labour movement, The Scotsman can reveal.

Labour leadership contender Jeremy Corbyn. Picture: PA
Labour leadership contender Jeremy Corbyn. Picture: PA
Labour leadership contender Jeremy Corbyn. Picture: PA

The development comes as former Prime Minister Tony Blair, Labour’s most successful leader, has warned party members that they will be pursuing disastrous “Alice in Wonderland” politics if they elect the hard left candidate as leader.

The promise to hold leadership elections every year or two years was made in the first hustings hosted by Newsnight when the contest began in June, when Mr Corbyn had needed to rely on borrowed nominations from MPs to get on the slate for party members to decide who will replace Ed Miliband.

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At the time the hard left candidate, who entered the contest “to widen the debate”, was a 100/1 outsider and given no hope of getting past the first round.

He said: “To avoid the personality argument I think there should be the opportunity to elect or not elect the Labour leader regularly every one or two years so that we don’t get into this idea ‘the leader’s vulnerable, we have got to get rid of the leader or don’t get rid of the leader’. Bring back democracy into the Labour Party and the Labour movement.”

The original proposal came after claims that Labour’s last two election defeats were in part caused by a failure to ditch Gordon Brown and Ed Miliband respectively as leaders.

But now with the bookies making him an odds-on favourite and a Yougov poll putting him 32 points ahead of his nearest rival, shadow health secretary Andy Burnham, Mr Corbyn has had a change of heart and gone back on the proposal of regular leadership elections.

A spokesman for Mr Corbyn’s campaign said: “Jeremy isn’t proposing annual leadership elections.”

A campaign source added that “there’s a Labour Party rule that allows for nominations for leader every year and there is no need to change this.”

In an article over the weekend, Mr Blair told party members they were staring into the abyss by voting for Mr Corbyn.

All the evidence showed Labour lost the 2015 election because it was “anti-business and too left” and had no credible economic plan, he said.

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“Neil Kinnock, Gordon Brown and I have collectively around 150 years of Labour party membership. We’re very different. We disagree on certain things. But on this we’re agreed,” he wrote.

“Anyone listening? Nope. In fact, the opposite. It actually makes them more likely to support him. It is like a driver coming to a roadblock on a road they’ve never travelled before and three grizzled veterans say, ‘Don’t go any further, we have been up and down this road many times and we’re warning you there are falling rocks, mudslides, dangerous hairpin bends and then a sheer drop’.

“And the driver says, ‘Screw you, stop patronising me. I know what I’m doing.’

“In the Alice in Wonderland world this parallel reality has created, it is we who are backward-looking for pointing out that the Corbyn programme is exactly what we fought and lost on 30 years ago, not him for having it.”

Mr Blair likened the surge for Mr Corbyn to movements that had propelled the Scottish National Party to dominance in Scotland, fuelled the re-emergence of Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Front in France and helped Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders emerge as contenders in the US presidential race.