5 things we learnt from Channel 4’s Labour leadership debate

Keir Starmer really doesn’t want to criticise Jeremy Corbyn.

Asked whether they would be “wise or try Corbynism again”, Starmer mentioned negative comments about the leadership coming up on the doorstep. As a result, he was specifically encouraged to outline what it was about Jeremy Corbyn that was unpopular. But Starmer didn’t do that – instead, he pointed to the outgoing leader being “vilified in the press”, before going on to praise Corbyn for boosting the size of the party.

Rebecca Long-Bailey thinks Corbynism doesn’t exist.

In a comment that won Long-Bailey her main applause line of the night, which has already been clipped and tweeted from her account, she said there was “not one policy I would drop” from Labour’s 2019 manifesto – but then gave an explanation. “There’s no such thing as Corbynism,” she said. “There’s our Labour values. If we believe in building more council homes, investing in our futures… that’s socialism, that’s not Corbynism.” The audience liked it, and it was a good way to combat that tricky Corbyn “10/10” rating that is still haunting her leadership bid.

None of them will commit now to decriminalising cannabis. 

Yes, that includes Long-Bailey, who implied earlier in the race that she had smoked pot in Amsterdam. Although on the Labour left, Long-Bailey said she would not decriminalise cannabis, but argued there should be a “conversation nationally” about it. Nandy said the same but mentioned a “proper review”, and Starmer said he would not do so “immediately” but has supported schemes in which there are no arrests nor prosecutions. (Video here.)

Lisa Nandy is the only candidate who would vote to scrap the monarchy.

Also during the quick-fire round, the candidates were asked about a hypothetical referendum on the monarchy – presumably inspired by the suggestion of Clive Lewis, who was knocked out of the contest during its first stage. Nandy went first, saying she would vote to scrap it. Starmer said he wouldn’t, and it was not a priority. Long-Bailey also emphasised that there are “more important things”, then – to the surprise of many members, I am certain – stated: “I wouldn’t vote to abolish the monarchy”. There’s no continuity Corbyn to be found there.

Greatest Labour leader of the last 50 years? Neither Jeremy Corbyn nor Tony Blair, according to these three.

Recent polling by Lord Ashcroft showed that, presented with this question including a 50-year limit, Labour members go for Corbyn while ordinary voters opt for Blair. It was notable that every one of the three candidates studiously avoided giving either of those answers. Long-Bailey chose Clement Attlee, though when the ’50 years’ aspect was highlighted, didn’t pick another. Linking his reply to his key message in this race, Starmer picked Harold Wilson “because he got party to unite behind him”. Nandy did her usual trick of turning the question on its head, cheekily answering: “I’m hoping we’re about to elect her”. Then she selected “the best that never was – Barbara Castle”.

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