Clement Attlee when asked by a departing minister why he had just given him the sack responded in typical style: “Afraid you’re not up to the job”.
Labour finds itself in the same position with its leader less than a year after his overwhelming election.
IpsosMORI show fewer and fewer people satisfied with Jeremy’s performance. When Labour supporters are polled less than half are happy with the job he is doing. In the last few weeks his personal poll ratings have fallen as low as Margaret Thatcher’s after the Poll Tax riots.
As democratic socialists we have to face our problems in the spirit of realism.
It is clear to anyone who has knocked on doors, and slogged the streets of our country in the countless elections since last September that our party is not on the cusp of a popular wave to power. Our leadership is not winning hearts and minds across the country, nor is it achieving breakthrough electoral success. Where we have won it has been in Labour heartlands or the emphatic victory of candidates themselves -Marvin Rees and Sadiq Khan are clear examples of this.
When this poor-bashing Tory Government has been defeated, it has more often than not been by Conservative back benchers. Ultimately, there is the failure that cannot be forgiven – losing a referendum on the greatest issue for a generation.
In the meantime our party seems to be turning itself into some sort of Tory private members club, where our purpose – winning power in a parliamentary democracy to advance the cause of working people – is being subordinated to what in the final analysis can only be described as some sort of self-indulgent attempt at purist protest.
This is leading to the fracturing of the only realistic left wing vehicle there is for taking power from the Conservatives. Ultras on both wings of the Party are engaged in a vicious fratricidal civil war with the only losers those in society who depend on Labour most.
Any leader presiding over such a reality would do the honourable thing and step aside.
So what do we need instead?
True leadership requires the competent, principled expression of the needs and aspirations of working people, and the translation of that common will into action.
Owen Smith has declared that he is running to be our next leader.
He has stood against austerity.
He led the charge against the welfare cuts in Parliament.
He is principled and competent. A mixture our party has been missing for some time as it veers between one and the other. Importantly Owen is best placed to bridge the ominous gap between the “fundamentalists” on the right and the “militants” on the left.
Clem Attlee once wrote:
‘‘A leader must have courage. He must have guts. He must be ready to act swiftly and decisively “.
We need that now. It’s for those reasons that we and many others we hope will be supporting Owen Smith.