After a galling worse-than-the-worst-case-scenario election defeat in May, the Labour Party has, understandably, given off the impression of being largely in a state of shock.
Half a decade’s efforts of shifting their image leftwards from their former ‘New Labour’ guise have transpired to be a purely vote-repelling exercise, and many of its key figures have scuttled away from the public eye, or have even been unceremoniously dumped out of politics altogether.
But licking your wounds in public will never be a very powerful or coherent political strategy. At this moment in time there’s a pressing need for someone pragmatic, relatable and with an actual sense of direction to take the reins, and ask the tough questions about the difficulties Labour faces in winning back support in the 2010s.
And that very person on the leader shortlist is Liz Kendall. Forthright, articulate and very much a realist, her message that Labour needs to re-engage with its working class voter-base, rather than incessantly patronise it, is one that sets her apart from her rivals, who either present a vision that is entirely bland and lacking in detail, or in Corbyn’s instance, an overtly ideological and quixotic
Liz Kendall stands as the only leader who could feasibly claim back the mantle of being on the side of working people who want to ‘get on’ in life, one which was mercilessly stolen and run with by the Tories at the general election.
Her leadership would also be set to mark a departure from the needlessly anti-aspirational politics of Milliband and Balls. She talks in relatively plain-speaking terms (by politician standards) that non-partisan folk up and down the country can understand, but doesn’t have the air of condescension effused by Cameron and co when discussing matters relevant to your average person on the street.
Opponents within her party have been quite ready so far to paint her as nothing more than a Tory in a red rosette. She isn’t. Her support for trade unions is worn on her sleeve, her championing of equality passionate, and her views on social cohesion positively left-wing. She isn’t the staunch Blairite some would have her be either, and has spoken of the shortcomings of the Blair-Brown years.
It’s also quite difficult to imagine her, in an all-important vote-wrestling week leading up to the polls, standing in front of a 12-foot policy headstone.
Ultimately, a party led by Liz Kendall is one that will avoid the real prospect of sliding into irrelevance and a cycle of self-pity. She has the resolve, charisma, common touch and – most importantly – ideas that are so sorely needed to turn their fortunes around, and take Britain’s traditional voice of the left back into Downing Street.
If Labour genuinely wants to win in 2020, it will choose Liz Kendall as leader.
Words by Benedict Tetzlaff-Déas