Dan Jarvis has released findings that says Labour need to defeat UKIP, and that Andy Burnham is the man to do it. He's right and he's also very wrong.
Actually, I don't really agree at all: UKIP did take votes from Labour in May and Labour need to win those votes back but tackling them head on by making immigration an even bigger topic is not necessary or right. People are concerned about immigrants taking their jobs or increasing the benefits bill and in doing so forcing austerity on us. But that's not because it's true, it's because almost all of the media and most politicians are as good as telling them that it is.
Labour's failure for the last few years has been to win arguments. They did not cause the recession but people think they did. Austerity is not the only option but people believe there is no alternative. Failure to win an argument doesn't always mean you're wrong, it just means your opponents managed to convince people that you are.
Jarvis' analysis hinges not only on the idea that Labour need to address the concerns popularised by the Daily Mail and UKIP but that Andy Burnham is the only candidate who can do that. Apparently Burnham is the only one who has talked about doing so but I guess I couldn't make that out, since I now tune out all disingenuous populist soundbites.
In truth is - and Jarvis will know this all too well - that the candidate most likely to appeal to people in the way that Nigel Farage has is Jeremy Corbyn. Of course he is towards the opposite end of the political spectrum to Farage but a lot of voters don't read much into what they are voting for, concentrating instead on who. Farage as the everyman is inaccurate - if you know anything about politics and politicians beyond the superficial - but it is nonetheless the reason for his success, and that is acknowledged by pretty much everyone.
And herein lies the flaw with Jarvis' contrived take on Andy Burnham being the one to win over UKIP voters. Burnham, and his advisors, have cultivated his image. He speaks in sound bites and shifts his position to the tune of whatever seems currently pressing. He wears a pristine suit and tidy hair at all times. He exudes the sort of sincerity that no one really believes. How on earth will people be turned by this? I like Burnham as Shadow Health Secretary (and hopefully as health Secretary) but few of the voters who have turned to UKIP in search of something different to the Westminster conveyor belt of 40-something clones will be won over him, no matter how much he talks about his modest upbringing in the Northwest. It is ironic that it is Burnham's attempt to be more popular, talking about every popular issue with as much conviction as the last, that will in fact turn people off him.
Corbyn has never attempted to garner mass appeal and as such, has never muddied his messages by trying hard to make sure no one can take anything he says the wrong way. The appeal of someone who clearly means what they say and isn't trying to be everything to everyone is almost universal. The ill-fitting suit and imperfect hair just add to it. While Burnham will twist himself inside out trying to talk tough on immigration while appealing to ethnic minorities who are used to that sort of talk having a rather bitter 'them and us' aftertaste, Jeremy Corbyn will be trying to convince the public that the real figures don't support the right-wing agenda and explaining how positive immigration has always and will always be to the UK. And if they've got any sense they'll believe him. And frankly the idea that those who don't would vote for Andy Burnham rather than Cameron or Farage is fanciful.