Corbyn would be ‘big mistake’ for British Labour, Rabbitte says

Ex-minister says he is ‘not a fan’ of politics of frontrunner in party’s leadership contest

British Labour Party leadership contender Jeremy Corbyn. Photograph: Ian Forsyth/Getty Images

British Labour Party leadership contender Jeremy Corbyn. Photograph: Ian Forsyth/Getty Images


Former Labour minister Pat Rabbitte has warned that the British Labour Party will be making a “big mistake” if it elects Jeremy Corbyn as leader.

He said the controversial frontrunner’s views would not have a very wide audience in Britain outside of a section of Labour Party members.

“I think it’s a big mistake. I’m not a fan of Corbyn’s politics and I never have been. He is essentially Trotskyist in his disposition,” Mr Rabbitte said.

Opinion polls indicate Mr Corbyn is leading the race to succeed Ed Miliband, who led his party to a bruising defeat in the British general election last May.

Three other candidates are contesting the leadership: Liz Kendall, Yvette Cooper and Andy Burnham.

The new leader is expected to be announced on September 12th.

Mr Rabbitte, who was leader of the Irish Labour Party from October 2002 until August 2007, said Irish party members should not attempt to influence their British counterparts during the campaign. “I don’t think it’s our job.”

However, he said he rejected comparisons that were being made between Mr Corbyn and Michael Foot, the former British Labour leader who saw the party lose to Margaret Thatcher’s Conservatives by a landslide in 1983.

“Michael Foot was an old-style Labour Socialist in the tradition of Nye Bevan. If he had defects as a politician that was different from his philosophy, but in Corbyn’s case he was a supporter of Militant and he’s essentially Trotskyist in disposition.”

Another former British Labour leader, Neil Kinnock, fought long-running battles in the 1980s with Militant, a Trotskyist group within the British Labour Party that grew out of the Revolutionary Socialist League.

Mr Rabbitte, who will not contest the upcoming general election, said such views did not have a very wide audience in Britain, “and from that point of view it will be a mistake if Labour elects him.

“It would be an error to conclude that they didn’t win the election because they didn’t espouse a policy programme that Mr Corbyn would’ve approved of.

“He may energise a section of Labour Party membership but I don’t think he’s going to energise the country.”

Mr Rabbitte said he did not believe Mr Corbyn’s election as leader was inevitable, “notwithstanding the polls”.

He said he was “puzzled” by the “influx” of new party members who had signed up ahead of the vote.

“I’d be suspicious of the motivation of some who are joining,” he added.

Mr Rabbitte served as minister for communications until July of last year.

Socialist roots

Mr Corbyn’s supporters say he will return the British Labour Party to its socialist roots.

A series of senior British Labour figures have intervened to say Mr Corbyn would represent a poor choice as leader.

Former prime minister Tony Blair has said the party faced annihilation if it picked Mr Corbyn and has argued that Labour cannot win an election on a left-wing platform.

Mr Blair’s successor Gordon Brown said Labour must choose a leader who can make it electable and not just a party of protest.

Former British foreign secretary David Miliband, brother of Ed Miliband, has warned Mr Corbyn would take the party “backwards” and risked leaving Britain a one-party state.

A poll for this week’s Independent on Sunday found 31 per cent of people believed Mr Corbyn would worsen British Labour’s chances of winning the 2020 election, compared with 21 per cent who thought he would improve it.