Have you already decided who you’re backing in the Labour leadership election? If so, I’d say you’ve probably chosen wrong.
Not that you’ve picked the wrong candidate. I’ve no idea who will win the election, much less who would be the leader we need to repair our party and get us back into power. But neither do almost any of the membership.
And that’s the point. If you’ve already chosen, you’ve probably chosen for the wrong reason.
We are two weeks on from a hugely disappointing election result. We went into the election confident (Ish -Ed) of victory, and we emerged on the other side roundly defeated.
In those two weeks, there has been a lot of discussion around why we lost, most of it focused through the prism of the forthcoming leadership elections. In those two weeks, five candidates have put themselves forward, and one has dropped out.
But here’s the thing: none of them have actually said anything of importance. That’s not a criticism, they’ve barely had the chance to think, but the truth is that aside from making various noises about how right they feel they would be for the role, not one of them has put forward any suggestion of the ideas and philosophy they’d like to pursue. But repeating the word “aspiration” over and over again does not a policy platform make.
Incidentally, the word “aspiration” did not come up once on the doorstep over the election. Make of that what you will, but if that’s going to be the “buzzword” of this contest then the candidates would do well to remember that the fact he talked in soundbites was one of the reasons people were disaffected with David Miliband’s leadership campaign (Anyone else remember, with a sense of mild confusion, “I’m a battler, not a bottler”? -Ed).
I can understand those who know personally one of the candidates backing them, and those MPs who have been their colleagues in the House of Commons for however long. But most of the membership — myself included — know next to nothing about what each of the four stand for. What is it you’re actually declaring your support for?
There will be a debate. A protracted debate over the summer, made up of lots of little debates, and all of the nonsensical silly-season rubbish from the press. It’s going, to be honest, to be a trial. And if you’ve already picked your side based on nothing but which one has the catchiest slogan, than this is going to get bitter and divisive, at precisely the time that we need to all be coming together to test all of the candidates and find the best path back into government.
To the leadership candidates: I am genuinely undecided. I am going to listen to what you have to say, the ideas that you put forward, your analysis of how we snatched defeat from the jaws of victory and, of course, most importantly: how we are going to get back into government, and how we can make people’s lives better once we’ve done so. Honesty will be your ally in this fight, with yourself and with the Party. If you want to win me over, then give me a vision and ideas that I can believe in.
To my fellow party members: just listen to what they have to say, and make your decision on that.