Gordon Brown will break his silence on the Labour leadership contest this weekend after a string of senior figures from Tony Blair to Alan Johnson warned that electing the frontrunner Jeremy Corbyn could split the party.
The former prime minister will give a speech about the future of the Labour party at the Southbank Centre in London on Sunday, as the first ballots papers arrive on the doormats and in the email inboxes of up to 610,000 members and supporters.
Brown has not pronounced on his pick for leader, but the title of the event, Power for a Purpose, hints that he could echo arguments from other party figures that Labour needs to elect a leader with the best chance of removing the Conservatives from power in 2020.
The speech has the same name as an essay written by Blair in 1995
setting out his vision for New Labour, two years before he won power
from the Conservatives.
Panic has been mounting in the party establishment about a Corbyn victory, after a YouGov poll showed the leftwing backbencher’s support as high as 53%.
Labour MPs – most of whom do not back Corbyn – have been pushing for an intervention from Brown, who they believe may have more sway over members and supporters than Blair.
Some are also keen for Ed Miliband to speak out against Corbyn, but he is understood to be abroad. One of Miliband’s closest advisers, Tom Baldwin, wrote in the FT this week that something could be learned from the way Corbyn has engaged people in politics but he also warned that the party elects him it “will push Labour further away from an electorate that concluded three months ago we lacked economic credibility and were out of touch”.
Throughout the various attacks on his candidacy, Corbyn has calmly rebuffed the dire warnings, saying he does not get involved in responding to such attacks.
He said on Thursday: “We’re the one putting forward ideas, so I don’t do personal, I don’t do reaction, I don’t do abuse … I think we should try and enhance the democratic life of this country, not reduce it to that level.”
He continued: “Can we please – and I say this to everyone – just talk about the issues that people are facing: the poverty levels, the inequality levels, the health problems, the way in which austerity is impacting on the lives of the most vulnerable in society? That is what’s most important.”
Burnham, Cooper and Kendall have all now critiqued his policies, having intially held back over fears it would look like they were ganging up against him.
Burnham has appealed for a “silent majority” to reject Corbyn’s politics as his camp said their data shows the gap between him and the leading candidate is much smaller than previous polls suggested.
The shadow health secretary singled out Corbyn’s plans to nationalise the energy sector and abolish student fees as two policies that were unrealistic.
Earlier, Kendall warned that choosing Corbyn would be tantamount to submitting “our resignation letter to the British people as a serious party of government”.
Cooper, the shadow home secretary, was the first to deliver a detailed critique of Corbyn’s positions on Thursday over his plans to bring back coal mines and print money to pay for infrastructure investment.
This article was written by Rowena Mason Political correspondent, for theguardian.com on Friday 14th August 2015 16.10 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010