Just like that, Keir Starmer’s Labour leadership performance has gone from hopeful to utterly hopeless

Tom Peck

One of the many unfortunate consequences of a Labour leadership contest that is scheduled to last until just after the sky turns black and the sun gobbles up the earth an event that geologists predict could even move Keir Starmer’s quiff by up to three millimetres – is that it will be even more embarrassing than needs be when the wrong person wins.

As the days and weeks go by, and seasons change and civilisations rise and fall as Rebecca Long-Bailey, Lisa Nandy and Starmer, all well into their 90s by now, you understand, turn up yet again for yet another hustings event at some community centre or other in some town or other, it is becoming increasingly impossible to carry on pretending there is any doubt over who the best candidate is, by several thousand miles, and yet who is not going to win by an even larger margin than that.

It has always been clear that Long-Bailey is hopeless. It’s now unfortunately even clearer that Starmer is too. And it’s even more clear that the party members have precious little interest in the dangerously obvious truth as explained to them by Nandy.

In the latest from the cold dead place that is the Labour leadership election front line, we learn that Long-Bailey could give Jeremy Corbyn a job in her shadow cabinet. Richard Burgon, who is standing for deputy leader, would make him shadow foreign secretary.

Politics is a funny old business, but perhaps never before has it been funnier than watching people trying to win an election in which the entire electorate is absolutely determined to lose. For the vast majority of Labour members, Corbyn can still do no wrong. The worst defeat for the party in 80 years is really no big deal. And carrying on fighting the battle that will always, always, always lose is the only just fight in town.

Time and time again, all they want to do is talk about trans rights and open selections for members, and time and time again Nandy tells them that the actual voters that have got to be won over don’t give a monkeys about any of this stuff, but they don’t care and Long-Bailey doesn’t care and Burgon doesn’t care and on and on it goes.

The highlights, if such a thing is the right word, from Monday night’s Channel 4 debates, involved Starmer, who it is now so very plain to see is all back story and no front story, making weak and wearisome noise about how the “messaging” hadn’t been good enough in the general election. About how Labour had policies, and a complex position on Brexit and it was up against “three simple words”.

When what you’re offering the voters you’re trying to persuade is to improve the messaging then you’ve spent too long in the bubble. Which is especially unfortunate, because Starmer is the one candidate that hasn’t.

It is only Nandy that appears to have any grip on reality. It’s only she who knows, for example, that the only way to keep the United Kingdom is to actually take the fight to the SNP, who have a wholly disastrous record in government in Scotland, have done precious little to combat the various appalling social crises they face and so can do little else but retreat to divisive nationalism, to us and them.

And even she, in answer to the question of who is your favourite Labour leader of the last 50 years, dare not utter the B-word, the only person to have actually won the party an election since 1974, instead having to come out with something about Barbara Castle, who never led the party in the first place.

There are, unfortunately, still several millennia of it to go. Of course, in the end, whatever happens will be an improvement on Corbyn, unless of course a freak accident leads to the election of a piece of office furniture, but the evidence, and my word there has been a lot of it, is that the party shows absolutely no sense whatsoever that it might yet be making a return to anything that looks like reality.

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