Dear Alistair Campbell,
I do hope that your holiday has not been ruined by worry over the Labour leadership. You seem to be a nice man and I enjoy seeing you when you appear on my television. Thank you for thoughts on the matter, you have made your points calmly and without rancour and I truly hope you are not vilified for it.
But you are wrong. I believe you know a little bit about the creation of New Labour. With your help, Tony Blair created a new narrative for the Labour party, won 3 elections and, as you and Alan Johnson point out, delivered a lot of positive changes for working people. 1997 was a watershed, but that was then and this is now. What Labour needs is a new story, a new perspective, and it is not coming from the ABC candidates. If all the things that failed Labour candidates heard on the doorstep are true then that’s because the Conservatives and UKIP were allowed to set the agenda. Modifying policy to address those concerns won’t make Labour more electable. It will just make Labour look like ersatz Tories. Why vote Labour when you can have the “real thing”?
It won’t be enough to win back old Labour supporters in 2020 – it will be 15 years since Labour last won a general election. That’s 15 years worth of younger voters added to the electorate. And 15 years of older voters joining the great electorate in the sky. To win in 2020 Labour will need the support of many voters who have never voted for them before. Time to create another New Labour that is not the old New Labour rehashed. I know it’s tempting to suggest that Jeremy Corbyn is just summoning up the spirits of Foot and Benn, or that Militant Tendency and their successors will get their foot in the back door, but if you pay attention to what Mr Corbyn is saying it is a lot more nuanced than that. He draws a distinction between state ownership and public ownership. He has many messages that strike a chord with people who Labour failed to engage with their austerity lite, mea culpa maybe, platitudes. The really terrible mistake with the much maligned Ed Stone was that, of the six pledges carved into it, five and half could have been, and perhaps were, said by Cameron and Osborne. JC is offering something that looks very different. If he wins – or even comes close – because thousands of new supporters choose him, then the Labour party will be a very changed beast. And that would be a Good Thing.