Labour leadership and squash defeats

WHEN a man loses at squash, he is not always in the best of spirits. But when he has lost as often as I have, the humiliation is mostly sluiced away by the post-game shower. Although a whiff of failure remains, like an un-washable patch of sweat.

My partner for last night delivered a comprehensive drubbing, and then asked a pert little question. Why hadn’t I written about the Labour leadership contest?

Ah, yes. I made a poor excuse about how my newspaper column used to be fairly political, and the blog was meant to be different. My squash vanquisher has politics that differ from mine. He pointed out, reasonably enough, that this didn’t stop me having a go at David Cameron quite often.

Ah, yes again, there is that. I can’t help but wriggle on that pin. Cameron is criticised or sometimes mocked because he causes such annoyance on my windy little ledge. And it is easy to lob rotten fruit or mouldy adjectives at those one dislikes. Much simpler than addressing those who might be considered to be on your side.

So here goes then. As a non-joining sort, I am not a member of Labour or any other party. So no ballot paper has come my way. No Labour official has attempted to have me removed from the ballot after suspecting a potentially hostile presence. Whereas if I ever tried to vote for a Tory leader, such an unmasking would be on the sharp side of likely.

So I don’t have a vote, but as a lifelong member of the bit-of-a-lefty club, the outcome does interest me.

The Labour contest would be nothing without the unexpected rise of left-winger Jeremy Corbyn. The electricity of his presence has certainly energised the debate. The enthusiasm he has managed to stir up among his supporters is nothing short of remarkable. The last time anyone got this excited about a Labour leader was when Tony Blair was dazzling everyone in his headlights.

Does this mean that Corbyn is the best choice for leader? The standard anti-argument is that he is good at animating a loyal crowd, but that his policies would be guaranteed to lose Labour the next election. Sadly, there is something in that.

Many of his supporters are too young to remember the old days of Labour, when Michael Foot, good man though he was, shuffled left to no good effect. So they don’t know where that journey usually ends.

Yet at least Corbyn seems to believe his own sermon, which he delivers with honesty and integrity. Would he appeal to the unconverted masses rather than just his supporters? Well, that seems unlikely.

But then would Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper or Liz Kendall win wider support? Among this straw poll of one that question can be answered as follows: maybe, perhaps and certainly not.

Burnham is solid but dull, Cooper is smart but dull and Kendall seems to have an annoying but unwarranted degree of self-belief. So not a lot of choice there.

As I said to the man who thrashed me – and we are still talking squash here – it seems likely that his lot will be in power for the next 15 years. To which he retorted that he would like to see a good opposition. And I think he was talking politics and not squash.

So there you have it, sweaty sport and politics, victory and defeat. Still there is always hope for the next contest. And I am talking squash this time. The politics can wait.

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