Thoughts on the leadership

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  • Tom Harris makes an excellent point when he questions why leaderhip candidates have to start listening now? Surely this should have been done on the doorstep during the election? I for one want a leader who runs on a clearly defined and thought-out platform – not a mish-mash of me-too-ery.
  • Further to this, I’m sick of all the bilge that too many Labour figures are coming out with regarding our organisation. This unhealthy obsession with ‘opening up’ the Party through primaries and supporters’ networks will lead to Party membership being practically worthless. And it’s all very well to talk about the Party playing a fully engaged role in local communities – I’d like to know where the bodies and money are coming from. Political parties do not exist to act like a cross between the Women’s Institute and Neighbourhood Watch and activities that divert us from our core task of winning elections are unhelpful.
  • There are two jobs that the leader must fulfil: they must oppose the government effectively, vigorously and sensibly; and they must be seen as a potential alternative PM. David Miliband fulfils the second role perfectly adequately but I doubt whether he’s the best man for the first. Ed Balls, by contrast, is probably the best man for the first role but falls down on the second.
  • Ed Miliband will be a lot of people’s ‘least disliked’ candidate. He doesn’t have any glaring weaknesses and leans enough to the left to be more palatable than his brother to a large number of members. However, he suffers from two weaknesses: first, he is not nearly as normal as many of his supporters would have you believe. He may not be as nerdy as David but he’s still a fair way along the spectrum. Second, he has an annoying habit of telling members what he thinks they want to hear. His speech to the Fabians did not mention crime once, it mentioned immigration only as a ‘class issue’, we were also told that we did not regulate markets enough. Hopi has mentioned this before.
  • Diane Abbott wont win but her supporters’ second preferences will be very valuable to whoever picks most of them up. She is the only serious London MP standing. One lesson from the last Deputy Leadership election is that London is disproportionately influential due to a large number of geographically-concentrated and well-networked members. Surely this is the only reason why Harriet Harman won in 2007 despite being such an obviously weak candidate.
  • In many respects, Andy Burnham would be the most attractive candidate to both traditional Labour supporters and swing voters. He is down-to-earth, friendly, provincial and politically sensible. However, a latent snobbishness in the Labour Party may cause these attributes to be held against him. The Deputy Leadership election was proof of this: these were all qualities displayed by Hazel Blears. In many repects he has the opposite problem to Ed Miliband in that he is culturally and politically closer to Labour voters than he is to Labour members.
  • What I will look for when I cast my vote are: a serious and moderate policy position on the economy, deficit reduction and support for manufacturing; a commitment to Party campaigning activism coupled with scepticism of Party reform; a degree of energy and vigour in attacking our political opponents and a personality that will be attractive to potential voters. I’m currently leaning towards Burnham and regret that his chances appear slim.
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5 Responses to “Thoughts on the leadership”

  1. Dan Says:

    Yes, Hazel Blears was disliked because she was ‘down-to-earth, friendly, provincial and politically sensible’ (hah!). That was what happened all right.

    It had nothing to do with her irritating position as a nodding-dog for the government, when the candidates who did well – Cruddas, and with his second preferences Harman – presented themselves as people who would represent members *to* the government, in a period when the PLP had denied us any choice over the leadership.

    She was a non-entity. Burnham, too, is a non-entity. Beyond being fairly normal-looking and -sounding (a precious commodity in politics), I don’t see any reason why he should be supported over candidates like Balls, also smack bang at the heart of New Labour but far more politically effective.

    Labour Party? Latent snobbishness? Please.

  2. captainjako Says:

    Put that in yo pipe and smoke it, Durbinite!

  3. mrs election Says:

    she was hardly a non entity, dan; and neither is burnham. they were both successful cabinet ministers for one.

    i agree with durbinite’s comparison of blears and burnham. it’s depressing how many members of the cabinet (labour and tory) continue to be from the same mould. blears was a rare species in that she was working-class, non-oxbridge, came from a trade union family and worked in local government prior to becoming a MP (rather than some flash job in the city). I’m certainly not saying these factors alone mean that someone should be promoted to high rank in the party, so don’t bother quoting any of them back at me. But I’d like to think that they would bring a different perspective to leadership and to policy decisions.

    Whilst her “nodding-dog” role (whilst party chair, which was basically her job description by the way – you saw the same from harriet in the last 2 years) put people off – you cannot deny that the “non-hard left” party members are more impressed by a David Miliband type: good image, strong, well spoken and good background – someone who has expected to be prime minister since they were 16. I just see that as more of the same and i don’t think it’s going to bring the radical change that I’d like to see. i’m disappointed crudass isn’t running but hope that he stays involved at a high level. Definitely backing Burnham, subject to attending proper policy debates, and really looking to hearing real ideas about the new direction of the party.

  4. captainjako Says:

    I like how Mrs Election is positive. There’s too much negativity around.

  5. Manzil Says:

    I don’t see ministerial office as being especially impressive – especially when policy is emanating solely from the centre, and all that is required is able administration and strict loyalty to the government line. Let’s face it, ‘unsuccessful’ ministers have been those who fucked up, or suffered personal scandals; there is very little room for failure when departments have lost any real autonomy.

    One thing I’ll say for Burnham – of all the ex-ministers he’s the only one running as the ‘continuity candidate’, a label he accepted from Andrew Marr. It’s hilarious seeing this procession of Eds and Milibands, higher-ups all, positioning themselves as alternatives to New Labour.

    With the refusal of Cruddas to stand, I think a large part of the Labour Party has been excluded – unless the contest exposes the candidates to uncomfortable questions, whether on traditional left-leaning topics like the income gap, workers’ rights and affordable housing, or uncomfortable issues like immigration or the EU. At the moment, the main candidates are being shielded from their record in government (good or bad), and excuses from explaining how we can pursue social-democratic policies in the future.

    It’s the worst of both worlds – and reason to be negative!

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