Corbyn ‘not electable as prime minister’, says Mullin
Former Labour MP tells crowd in Cork none of the candidates for leadership would return the party to power
Former Labour MP Chris Mullin saidJeremy Corbyn, who is currently leading the contest, is a close friend of his but he very much doubted that he would be able to lead Labour back into power if he is chosen at the party’s leader. Photograph: Justin Tallis/AFP/Getty
None of the candidates contesting the leadership of the British Labour Party is electable as prime minister and the party may be facing into a long period of opposition, former Labour MP Chris Mullin told a meeting in Cork at the weekend.
Mr Mullin said that veteran left-winger, Jeremy Corbyn, who is currently leading the contest, is a close friend of his but he very much doubted that he would be able to lead Labour back into power if he is chosen at the party’s leader in the four week long poll due to start on August 14th.
“Jeremy is a lovely fellow and a true socialist - if you get on a train with him, as I have done once or twice, he immediately gets out his vegetarian sandwich and cuts it in half and gives you half and I like him very much but, be under no illusion, he is not electable as prime minister,” he said.
Mr Mullin said that he didn’t believe any of the other three candidates, Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall offered Labour any better chance of wresting power from the Conservatives in the next general election.
“Looking at the other three candidates, I’m not entirely convinced any of them are electable either so part of me is inclined to say ‘Go for it then (and vote for Mr Corbyn) - if we are going to spend a period in the wilderness, we might as well feel good about ourselves’ .”
Speaking at The Spirit of Mother Jones Festival in Cork where he gave a lecture on his close friend, the late Tony Benn, Mr Mullin said that he believed that Mr Corbyn was the closest of the four candidates to Mr Benn in terms of his political philosophy and his vision for Britain.
“Over the years, Labour has had a number of lost leaders and Tony Benn was certainly one and John Smith was another - they were very different people in that John Smith was a conservative with a small ‘c’ but he would have been a very successful leader who would have led Labour into power.”
“ I think Tony Benn would have supported Jeremy because they were very good friends for a very long time - he would have probably come down on the side (of Mr Corbyn) and say ‘Go with it’ and a little part of me says the same,” Mr Mullin said, who led the campaign for the release of the Birmingham Six.
“Even if there was one of the other three candidates that I thought was capable of winning, even if they didn’t reflect my views necessarily, then I would go for them but I am not convinced and I fear we may be in for a long period of opposition which is not something I relish.”
Mr Mullin said one of the particular challenges facing Mr Corbyn if he is elected Labour leader when the ballot is announced on September 12th, is that he will not enjoy the support of a majority of the Parliamentary Labour Party and that will be a problem for him.
“He’s got more support in the unions and he’s got more support amongst members but among MPs, he would have a relatively small following so he will have to find a way of reaching out to at least a majority of the Parliamentary Labour Party if he is elected leader.”
Mr Mullin said that whoever is elected leader of the party next month, they will face a major challenge in trying to make the party a serious contender for office given the very different trends emergent in different parts of the UK in this year’s general election.
“Labour is in a difficult spot because it’s not left wing enough for Scotland and it’s too left wing for the south of England where ,outside of the poorer parts of London, it has very few seats- it’s between a rock and a hard place and I don’t know how the new leadership is going to strike that balance.
“I don’t think Labour lost this year’s general election because it was too left-wing - it lost because it lost Scotland to the Scottish Nationalists so it has to try and win back those seats while at the same time somehow win back middle class voters in the south and east of England.”