Labour’s leadership contest, considered bland and uninteresting for so long has been brought to life by the success of Jeremy Corbyn. Corbyn’s popularity has grown amongst the grassroots of the Labour Party and recent polls have even put him ahead in the contest.
Many theories have been given for Corbyn’s success, but the strongest appears to be that none of the other candidates have put forward a compelling case. Liz Kendall had a strong start to the campaign, but has since fallen away and is no longer a serious contender, leaving the Blairite wing of the party isolated. Yvette Cooper has come across as competent, but unexciting and there are still doubts over where she stands on certain issues. Andy Burnham remains the frontrunner in the contest but has been weakened by his flip-flopping on the welfare bill and has failed to build on his position.
Looking at these candidates and their performances so far, many ordinary Labour Party members may feel sceptical about whether any of them could win an election. Although a significant proportion of the Labour Party had their doubts about Tony Blair and where he stood on the political spectrum, he was considered a winner and a Prime Minister in waiting and this helped to ease their fears. In this contest there is no candidate who fits this description and therefore the desire to back a candidate more politically aligned to the traditional values of the Labour Party may be tempting.
Jeremy Corbyn has stood out in this race because of clear positioning and ability to give straight answers to straight questions. The political values he espouses may not be considered electorally viable but are certainly clear cut. His romantic and nostalgic version of what the Labour Party should be is very appealing to many on the Left of the party. Corbyn is winning people’s hearts and when there is no candidate who can win people’s heads, this is a distinct advantage.
A strong candidate in the Labour leadership race would have blunted the appeal of Corbyn. A candidate who could unite the party and could win an election would have brought all sections of the party together. It is to the detriment of the Labour Party that no such candidate exists or has chosen to enter the race and that there is a very real prospect Corbyn could win.