In August 2017 the New Zealand Labour Party entered a General Election 20 points behind the conservative National Party. They were led by a lacklustre Andrew Little who failed to dent National’s austerity-led reputation. Labour swapped leadership during the campaign, elected Jacinda Ardern , and went to to win the election (in a coalition). The world has admired Jacinda ever since.
With this against-the-political-grain lesson in mind (you DON’T swap leaders in the midst of a campaign – do you?!) what is brewing in the British Labour Party? Note: the disappearance of Jeremy and the growing media presence of John McDonnell. McDonnell has a reassuring presentation, he radiates reasonableness and rationality – something with which he has scored success among some leaders in the financial world. He is untainted by Brexit and ‘anti-semitism’ confusions and he is linked personally with many emerging Labour policies that are clearly attractive to the electorate. If Jeremy were to slip away, with him would wash away much of the controversy, fear and loathing he has (unfairly) attracted to the party. Jeremy struggles every bit as much as did Theresa May to assume the mantle of ‘statesman’ – McDonnell’s even disposition has that seed.
The backdrop is of a Conservative Party in disarray and about to launch into deepening chaos with the annunciation of ‘Boris’ Johnson. Jeremy’s strident, somewhat pleading tone merely provides a foil for Johnson’s buffoonery, whereas McDonnell’s self-assured and sound character promises to disarm it. More so, McDonnell’s intellectualism and grip on detail.
Of course, there would be a leadership contest to manage. The new rules reduce the Parliamentary Labour Party share of the vote to just 10%, but that is widely thought to favour McDonnell as a candidate. He remains popular among the left-leaning membership.