Jeremy Corbyn, the hard-left Labour MP, wants to stand for the Labour Party leadership. But he’s not doing terribly well, with only eleven nominations from his fellow Labour MPs (leadership hopefuls need to be nominated by at least 35 MPs to make the cut, and be able to stand for leader). Most people, I think, would take this distinct lack of faith from their parliamentary colleagues as a sign that they shouldn’t really be in the contest at all. But in Corbyn’s case, there has been no such realisation – instead, a slightly surreal campaign has sprung up, pushed by supporters of Corbyn both inside and outside the Parliamentary Labour Party, urging Labour MPs to nominate Corbyn even if they don’t agree with him. Which, I think you’ll agree, is a little odd.
What is the point of nominating Corbyn if you don’t think he’d be a good candidate for the leadership? Well, the Corbynites argue, even if you personally don’t agree with our chap, he at least deserves a chance to state his views. His inclusion in the leadership contest will ‘widen the debate’.
Yes, that’s almost certainly true! But if the object is to ‘widen the debate’ by including a bunch of opinions very few people actually agree with – instead of, y’know, actually finding an effective leader who can make Labour electable again – then why not stick Jean-Marie Le Pen in there too?! Sure, nobody in the Labour Party will actually like anything he says – but having him there will ‘widen the debate’, so they should nominate him anyway! (Obviously this is absurd – Jean-Marie Le Pen is not even a Labour MP! – but I think you see the point I’m trying to make…)
By this logic, lots of people should vote at the next election for the nutty authoritarian idealism of the Green Party, or the closed-minded, racist nastiness of the BNP – even if they don’t like any of their policies – because including those parties will ‘widen the debate’. After all, having – say – eight or nine BNP MPs in the House Of Commons would certainly ‘widen the debate’! So we should all vote for them! Would that really be for the best, though?
The irony is that I suspect those pushing for Labour MPs to nominate Corbyn even if they don’t like him are some of the same people who were frothing at the mouth after last month’s General Election, squealing that the result of the vote didn’t accurately reflect the views of the people who had voted. If Labour MPs nominate Corbyn simply to ‘widen the debate’, the same will be true of the leaderships contest – the candidates nominated won’t actually reflect the views of the Parliamentary Labour Party. What is the point of 'widening the debate' to include views that don't actually represent the people the debate is for?
If Jeremy Corbyn wants to be the leader of the Labour Party, then he has every right to put himself forward for it. And good luck to him! But if people don’t buy what he’s selling, there’s no compulsion for his colleagues to nominate him regardless. If Labour MPs don’t want Corbyn to be the leader of their party, it would be foolish of them to nominate him. So, if Corbyn wants in, he needs to offer an agenda which will appeal to enough people to get him elected based on people actually supporting him – just like everybody else on that ballot has had to. Labour's hard left should stop trying to parachute in a candidate if that candidate has no right to be on the ballot on merit.