Ian Austin

Independent for Dudley North

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Ian comments on the Labour leadership contest

Labour only wins when we meet the challenges faced by Britain's mainstream majority, not when we're looking backwards.

Just three months ago, the Labour Party asked the British people to put us in charge of the country.

Now it looks like we can’t even run a leadership election.

A handful of MPs put someone they knew could not do the job on the ballot to “widen the debate”.

Then we allowed anyone, no matter which party they had voted for, to take part. 400,000 signed up and overwhelmed staff and volunteers just couldn’t check them all properly. Members, supporters, and even candidates from other parties slipped through. Tens of thousands of votes are being cast by our opponents and there is no process to weed them out.

What a shambles.

None of this is helping Labour face up to some of its most serious challenges in a generation.

The financial crisis and expenses scandal damaged confidence in politics. Traditional industries and the jobs they provided were hit by new technologies and cheap foreign competition. Wages were depressed in many areas by high levels of immigration.

Insecurity has risen and people are turning to populist parties with easy answers not only in Greece or Spain, but the SNP in Scotland, UKIP on the right and now Jeremy Corbyn on the left.

The financial crisis caused a deficit which means the country is spending more on debt interest than some vital public services. Research by the union-backed MP Jon Cruddas shows the British people want the deficit paid off.

TUC research showed the top three reasons for not voting Labour in May were fears we would be too generous with benefits, spend too much and make too many concessions to the SNP.

Jeremy Corbyn’s response? Business as usual for the benefit system is the centrepiece of his campaign. He wants higher taxes and an alliance with the SNP. His top economic policy is massive spending paid for by what he calls “quantitative easing” but what everyone else calls printing money. That was necessary in a financial emergency caused by a worldwide economic collapse. But printing money every year to pay for things you can’t afford would weaken our currency, hit investment and drive up inflation.

He wants to bring back the old “Clause Four” commitment to widespread public ownership that was written a century ago and abolished in 1994. He’d spend billions so power stations can be run by government bureaucrats when any extra cash should go to schools, hospitals, apprenticeships and helping families.

All the polls showed immigration is a top concern for many voters. We can’t ignore them, and we have to come up with fair and reasonable answers, but he won’t accept any concerns about immigration and even said UKIP voters are “motivated to some extent by racism” which won’t help us win them back.

The world is a more dangerous place than ever with terrorists trying to develop dirty bombs and nuclear weapons, yet he still believes in unilateral nuclear disarmament.

He opposes every attempt to use British forces – not just in Syria and Iraq, but even Kosovo where the UK intervened to prevent thousands being slaughtered.

He blames the West for Putin’s aggression in Ukraine and wants a closer relationship with Putin’s Russia when we should be hitting them with tougher sanctions.

The IRA only engaged in the peace process when they realised terrorism wouldn’t win, yet in 1987 – more than a decade before the Good Friday Agreement – he observed a minute’s silence for terrorists killed when they attacked a police station in Loughgall.

It’s not just Ireland. He called the terrorist organisations Hamas and Hezbollah “friends” and described Raed Salah, a man convicted of the racist blood libel, as an “honoured citizen”. He invited Dyab Abou Jahjah who said he considers “every dead American [and] British soldier a victory” to Parliament.

If all this doesn’t convince you, ask why David Cameron, Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage and most Tory MPs want him to win.

Labour only wins when Britain’s practical and reasonable mainstream majority are confident it can help meet the challenges they face the future, not when it’s looking backwards or wedded to outdated ideology. We must be firmly anchored in the centre ground listening and responding to the concerns and aspirations of the lower and middle income majority. Winning the next election will be very difficult for any Labour leader, but Jeremy Corbyn will take Labour further away from the centre ground where elections are won and could even put us out of business altogether.

I nominated Yvette Cooper because she’d be a credible leader and take on the Tories from the very start. I will also vote for the courageous campaigner Liz Kendall and Andy Burnham and I hope everyone with a vote supports these three to give Labour a chance of winning again.

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