The Guardian is reporting today that Sadiq Khan and Andy Burnham are likely to be ‘cut’ from Labour’s 2017 Conference programme in order to make more space for member contributions and debate on the issues important to members.
The Guardian describes Khan’s 2016 ‘Labour in Power’ Conference speech as ‘powerful’, but in fact the only notable thing about it was that it managed to be smug and dreary at the same time.
Khan attempted to capitalise on what was – even more clearly so after the General Election – a significantly Corbyn-driven win, helped by an ugly, dog-whistle campaign by his Tory opponent, to make a thinly-veiled attack on the Labour leader with a repetitious, uninspiring speech that amounted to little more than a call to the centrism that people had forsaken yet again to vote for Corbyn in droves in the leadership election.
Khan had supported Owen Smith and his words of congratulation to Corbyn on yet another huge win rang hollow.
The ‘Corbyn surge’ at the General Election – and since, with polling even better than led to Blair’s landslide in 1997 – showed clearly that centrist moans that popularity among Labour members didn’t equate to popularity among the electorate were just more naysaying by those devoid of anything better.
And in that context, Khan’s ‘powerful’ speech looks empty of substance and bereft of vision – a failed attempt at cheap, small-minded point-scoring.
He will be missed by few of the majority of members who support Corbyn’s leadership and vision, assuming the ‘cut’ materialises.
But even more than his uninspiring politics and presentation, those who spoke to the Guardian in outrage at the idea that he wouldn’t feature at this year’s Conference show why his absence will be no loss.
Neil Coyle and Wes Streeting jumped up to object to the prospect, with the latter claiming it “would be a terrible snub not to have him addressing our conference.” Streeting has been a persistent denigrator of the Labour leader who then tried to redeem himself by singing ‘Oh Jeremy Corbyn’ at a post-election event.
Coyle – who expected to lose his Bermondsey and Old Southwark seat but won with a 10-point increase in his majority – didn’t even have the sense to show gratitude for a win that surprised him, bleating that he was not going to be a ‘cheerleader’ for Corbyn. He had to be slapped down by his own constituents and others who had campaigned for him – but seems to have learned little if anything from the experience.
Khan was uninspired and uninspiring in 2016, backed the wrong horse in the leadership race in spite of the obvious impact of Corbyn’s policies and authenticity on the London mayoral result – and his own speech showed he was out of touch with voters and lacked the imagination and vision to understand what was happening. In that he’s not remarkable among ‘centrist’ Labour politicians.
But the mere fact the likes of Streeting and even more so Coyle are bemoaning the idea of his absence would be a good enough reason in and of itself for most Labour members to welcome it – even if they weren’t unfortunate enough to have to sit through his 2016 Conference contribution.
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