Until I sat down to write this I hadn’t realised how many Labour Party leadership elections I had been through. Like a lot of things in life I still regard myself as a beginner and struggle with the concept that I am grown up and people want me to mentor them!
Don’t panic – the headline does not suggest I am running or want your vote for myself – but I would love to hear from all my non-labour supporting friends about the qualities of the leadership candidates before I cast my vote.
Having joined the Party in the 1980s my first experience was seeing Michael Foot beaten up metaphorically by the media. We changed to what we considered a moderniser – Neil Kinnock. And he was. We needed somebody who could change the fortunes of the Party after 1983. Our focus was inward looking. Kinnock of course was a great orator from the platform, but we had entered the television age. We were slightly behind the curve. We gave him the chance for one last heave after our 1987 defeat! We know where that ended in 1992. I remember clearly all those articles about whether Labour could ever win again after 1987. By the defeat in 1992 even I was starting to wonder. But by 1997 I was an MP in a Labour government with a 144 seat majority and then the talk became whether the Tories could ever win again!
In the period after 1992 I has become part of the John Smith Leadership campaign team. I was responsible to Robin Cook for the East Midlands CLPs. We made sure they nominated and then voted for John. When we look back at our 94% vote we like to think we did a good job. But this is when I first got my teeth stuck into realising in the Party we like to show our ideological purity – not elect the right person. In today’s currency, even John Smith would be called the Blairite candidate. We get really stuck in labels that mean plenty to us but nothing to the electorate.
So whilst I will eventually make my decision about who to vote for – my single vote – I want to do things differently this time. I don’t want to listen to an internal party debate about who is a Blairite or Brownite. I don’t want to know which tribal wing of the party they come from. I put this aside in 2010 and voted for David Miliband because although my personal politics were closer to Ed’s I had represented or been a candidate in a marginal constituency for over 20 years and knew what makes swing voters tick. And guess what. They are not the same things that get the average Labour Party member out of bed on a cold rainy weekend to go leafleting and canvassing.
Take the reaction to Liz Kendall talking about Free Schools. The reaction from many was that she should just join the Tory Party now. Don’t get me wrong I think Free Schools are a dangerous gimmick and create havoc for local planning. But now they exist it it hard to convince people who don’t engage in politics that getting rid of them is not about reducing ‘choice’. Most people don’t care about the NUT, old LEAs and what the local Labour party thinks. If some of the ‘aspirants’ we need to get to vote for us see we always against their choice agenda they will see us as statist and backward looking. So these issues need to be addressed with more maturity than simply shouting down anybody who dare say this.
I get the idea that we are electing somebody to lead the Labour Party. But I hope we are doing much more than that. I hope we are electing somebody we can feel confident we can put in front of a modern electorate and they will feel they can look at them and think – yes I can see them as Prime Minister. I am afraid that was never going to happen for Ed however much we wished it be true. I learned this lesson with Gordon Brown in 2010. Once the electorate has made up its mind it is almost impossible to shift in the short campaign.
So this is where you come in. I will create a poll on this site, my facebook, linkedin and website at http://www.sajeimpact.net for you to have your say. With over 3500 facebook friends, 5000 twitter followers and 2000 on Linkedin I think there is an interesting sample.
Which (if any ) of the candidates looks like they could be PM
Which of them seem to be speaking sense.
The candidates for the Leadership are:
Andy Burnham MP
Liz Kendall MP
Mary Creagh MP
Yvette Cooper MP
I will do a similar exercise for the Deputy Leadership when all the runner and riders have been decided. I am guessing this will be a smaller sample as most of the MPs running will be poeple very few of us will have even heard of!