Chris Dillow’s post today is so concise, comprehensive and in my view largely correct that I cannot help responding to it.
The case against Corbyn
I only have two comments on this, which go in different directions
C1) A case can be made that Corbyn needs to stay in control for as long as it takes to change the voting procedures for leaders so the PLP can no longer block left candidates. He is, in that sense, a placeholder. That is why I suggested Smith commit to make similar changes, and he has not. The only caveat to that argument is that Corbyn’s popularity may mean he carries on too long: a placeholder who cannot give up his place.
C2) I am much less dismissive than Chris of the polling information we have on Corbyn. I have not found anyone who studies these things who gives Corbyn any chance at all, and they are not all politically biased when they say that. It is hardly a precise science, but there are regularities there that should not be dismissed. There is also for me the killer common sense point: why would anyone who is not a politics geek vote for a leader that 80% of his MPs had no confidence in.
The case against Smith
S1) I’m less worried about the ‘mis-speaking’: you cannot at the same time appear authentic and not do this, and the importance voters place on this is wildly exaggerated. It was trying to avoid this that got us Labour politicians who seem to speak in gaff proof platitudes.
S2) I am more worried on the policy and judgement side. Alas, I see few politicians you do appreciate the big difference the financial crisis has made. I think the point about Corbyn and clocks is correct: part of the Owen Jones cri de coeur was about this. But equally I have seen little from Smith on any overarching political or economic vision. He has said nothing on the Economic Advisory Committee or fiscal rules: small things but so easy to do I wonder why he hasn’t done them. The one point I would make in Smith’s favour is he has Brexit right. Ironically it is here that Corbyn and his supporters sound like triangulators: we must not be too pro single market/freedom of movement because that will antagonise the traditional heartlands.
S3) The generational divide point is overrated. Also for the reasons I’ve already given Smith is likely to do much better in a general election than Corbyn.
The way to look at this election is in terms of disaster avoidance. Corbyn risks a split left and a wipe out at the general election. I can see a path where a split is avoided and someone takes over from Corbyn in time and with the qualities required to bring the party back, but that will not happen until after 2020 so we are talking a Tory government for the next decade at least. But there are so many obstacles on this path, like boundary changes, or the absence of a strong successor in the Corbyn group, that I give it a very low probability. In other words a disaster of one kind or another is pretty likely. In short, so much of this is something I have already lived through once before.
One disaster with Smith is a return to triangulation and a drift back to the ways of 2010-2015. But it will not be the same as 2010-2015, mainly because the Conservatives will not put deficit reduction at the heart of their strategy. Brexit has changed that, which is something many Corbyn supporters fail to see. Brexit also stops appeasement on immigration. Partly as a result I think there is a good chance that the centre left have now learnt the right lesson from 2015. Another disaster will be more personal - he is just not up to the job, and Labour will do almost as badly at the polls as they will with Corbyn. Again possible but unlikely: he has passed the Today test. To sum up, I cannot by any stretch of the imagination get these two combined to come close to the likelihood of a disaster under Corbyn.
Which is basically it. If you think that something like the Blair/Brown government was little better than the Tories, and therefore want to shoot for the moon, it is clear what you do. If you do not think that, and want to avoid a disaster for the left, you do the opposite. Doing nothing, to be honest, is a cop out.