Monday, May 18, 2015

Where's the British Bernie Sanders?

The candidates who have so far announced that they are standing for the Labour leadership are an underwhelming bunch. Those who aren't tainted by association with the Blair/Brown years (Burnham, Cooper) are, by all indications, little more than Tories with different coloured rosettes.

Liz Kendall, who if the bookies are anything to go by is the likeliest of the up-and-coming candidates to give those New Labour stalwarts a run for their money, had no hesitation in conceding crucial ground to the right-wing economic narrative that Labour "spent too much money"; a major setback in the fightback against the fallacious Tory line on the economy precisely when it should be combated most strongly.

Meanwhile, surprise hopeful Mary Creagh launched her campaign in the Daily Mail, pitching her campaign at "aspirational voters and small businesspeople". While she appears to be preferable to Kendall in that she has not given the Tories a helping hand by attacking her own party's economic record in office, it's hard to see what a Labour party led by her has to offer low-wage workers, disabled people and the jobless, and easy to envisage it being squeezed by a resurgent Liberal Democrat party.

Indeed, under the leadership of Tim Farron (the less said about Norman Lamb the better, judging by his dismaying showing on the Sunday Politics yesterday in which he claimed - to Andrew Neil's bewilderment - that Labour "bankrupted the country"), it's not unforeseeable that the Lib Dems could end up as the strongest opponent of the Tories economically as well as socially by the time 2020 rolls around.

While the distinctly uninspiring candidates battle it out for the dubious prize of leadership of the Labour party in 2015, over on the other side of the Atlantic something genuinely exciting is transpiring.

The race to be the Democratic nominee to succeed Barack Obama as President was expected to be a walkover for Hilary Clinton, and she is still expected by most to win the nomination. However, the unexpected entry into the race of Vermont senator Bernie Sanders has galvanised activists, raising $3 million in small donations to his campaign in just four days after announcing his candidacy. Even if his chances are slim, by his presence in the debates he will have a much-needed impact.

Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist, has consistently spoken out against America's plutocracy; in 2010 going so far as to speak for eight and a half hours in the Senate to stall a tax cut for the richest Americans and speak out against gross income disparities
This is a rigged economy, which works for the rich and the powerful, and is not working for ordinary Americans … You know, this country just does not belong to a handful of billionaires - Bernie Sanders (Guardian)
We here in the UK, and the Labour Party in particular, badly need a Bernie Sanders of our own right now. But, whoever could that be?

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