Gordon Brown also made an attempt to influence the Labour leadership contest, claiming in a “50 minute speech at London’s South Bank centre” that there was “one thing worse than having broken hearts” – and that was “powerlessness”. Whilst refusing to comment on who he was going to vote for in the leadership elections, he spoke about how a higher “level of global co-operation” would be needed to respond to “the insecurity created by globalisation”. Then, in an attempt to slander Corbyn without saying his name, he suggested that support for the Iranian bloc, Venezuela, and Russia would leave Britain with “no chance of building a worldwide alliance that could deal with poverty and inequality and climate change and financial instability”. In other words, peaceful dialogue (as proposed by Corbyn) with influential international groups outside the West’s sphere of influence (the main thing that links the three bodies mentioned by Brown) should be off the table. He made no mention, however, of the West’s current alliance with anti-democratic regimes like that of Saudi Arabia.
For Brown, it was clear that “to win power we have to win the people” (just as Corbyn had been doing). The Labour Party, he said, “must give people realistic hope” by “making the desirable popular and electable”. In other words, he was suggesting (intentionally or not) that attempts had to be made to ensure progressive views were understood and desired, instead of pragmatically compromising on key principles. “We have to always listen to and learn from the public”, he asserted, while “never looking inwards just talking to ourselves”. In short, it seemed like he was conceding that the party had to listen to the clear desire of the electorate for policies only offered by Corbyn, whilst shunning the factional elitism practised by Blairites.
At the Vox Political blog, Mike Sivier argued that Brown’s largely “non-specific” speech, calling for a “credible, radical, sustainable and electable” Labour Party, had actually made it clear to Corbyn supporters that their candidate was the only one really endorsed by the former prime minister. ‘Powerless’, he insists, is precisely how Labour’s traditional base of support would feel under Burnham, Cooper, or Kendall, “whose policies would be so close to those of the Conservatives that the electorate would give up on any possibility of opposition”.
Regarding Brown’s comments on foreign policy, however, there was opposition to Corbyn, but in reality it was more a “deliberate attempt at disinformation”, suggesting erroneously that Corbyn in some way agreed with the politics of Putin, Hezbollah, or Hamas. Quite the contrary, asserted Sivier, Corbyn was “far more likely to put forward policy agreeing with Brown’s claim that Labour should form progressive alliances” than any other candidate, seeking to consolidate an international fight against “illiberalism, totalitarianism, antisemitism, racism and the extremisms of prejudice”.
Meanwhile, stressed Sivier, it was “only Corbyn’s opponents who paint him and his policies as unelectable”, and the wider party actually saw “his policies as preferable by far to the watered-down Conservatism [peddled] for the last 20 years” by New Labour. The non-Corbyn candidates’ alternative, he insisted, was “not credible – otherwise Labour would not have lost the 2010 and 2015 elections” and was destined to consolidate the party’s role as a “pale imitation of the Conservatives” (which had “led Labour into the twilight of being a party of protest, rather than government”).
In fact, asked Sivier, “are we sure Brown wasn’t supporting Corbyn?”. His comment that “people must vote… for the candidate who can make a difference”, for example, appeared to be “resounding support for Corbyn”, and to have done “more harm to the three stooges other candidates than to Jeremy Corbyn”.