THE LEADERSHIP CAMPAIGN.
As if the heavy election defeat was not bad enough, the Labour leadership contest seems to me to have compounded the party’s problem. There is no sign of the fundamental debate Labour need. There is merely the usual rush by MPs to get behind one candidate or another. And a pretty uninspiring bunch of candidates they are, and I’m not the only one who thinks that. There are calls for a constitutional break clause so that if after three years the new leader isn’t doing the business, they can be sacked. That says it all about the quality of the field.
If we are talking about interim arrangements, Alan Johnson should have realised his duty and led the party for a couple of years to sort things out.
In the first place it was wrong for both Ed Miliband and Harriet Harmer to announce their resignations. In 2005 Michael Howard stayed on as leader of the Conservative Party for six months after his General Election defeat so that the Tories could hold their inquest. Hustings were held at the party conference and voting took place afterwards.
Labour has rushed into a leadership contest were the focus is on the personalities and not on the huge questions the party should be discussion. They include, should there be a separate Scottish Party with a similar relationship to Labour as the SDLP in Northern Ireland, and should feelers be put out to the Greens and Lib Dems about a grand union of the left.
If that’s too bold they need to work out how they are going to appeal to left leaning Scots, UKIP leaning blue collar workers in the north, and aspirational voters in the south all at the same time. Do you hear any of the leadership candidates addressing that multi headed question?
If it wasn’t to be David Miliband in 2010 then I thought Andy Burnham would have been the right choice. He remains a really nice bloke that every Mum wants to cuddle but it pains me to say that he would be the wrong choice this time. I’ve reached this conclusion because of the scale of Labour’s defeat in Scotland and the South. In Scotland Burnham will just be seen as another English leader whilst in the South there will be suspicion about his union links. His declaration that he is “Labour through and through” plays well for a leadership election but not in Oxford, Swindon and Southampton. His insistence that the NHS played such a central role in the campaign didn’t work and he will always be encumbered by introducing a measure of privatisation when he was Health Secretary.
Yvette Cooper is probably counting on coming through the middle as most people’s second choice. This may explain her colourless campaign. The plan seems to be say as little as possible. My problem with Cooper is that she is colourless and lacking in ideas and would be wholly unsuited to be leader at this time of great challenge for Labour.
Jeremy Corbyn had to be helped into the contest by MPs nominating him although they have no intention of voting for him. What a daft system! At least Corbyn is not colourless but his left wing views disqualify him from consideration.
So we come to Liz Kendall who I very reluctantly support because of the absence of Dan Jarvis, Chukka Umunna and Alan Johnson. The party in England has to move back to the centre and she represents that position. She is relatively untainted by Labour’s past. It is a gamble as she lacks stature big time. But then again when Michael Howard finally stood down in December 2005, how many saw the posh boy from the Bullingdon Club as a two term Prime Minister.