Thoughts on politics and life from a liberal perspective

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Labour is in danger of choosing the wrong leader for the wrong reasons

In the first few days of the new coalition there seemed to be what I
consider a rather lazy assumption often articulated by Labour
activists that the government can't last and will fall apart in a year
or 18 months. I have mentioned before how I think this as a risky
assumption but in the context of the Labour leadership election it
becomes even more so.

This is because of how the way the coalition government is perceived
could significantly affect the leader they choose.

I am not a great fan of David Miliband. I think he is too wonkish and
does not connect with ordinary people very well. However I do concede
that he is very experienced at the highest levels in government having
been one of Tony Blair's closest advisers in Downing Street and
subsequently a Cabinet Minister reaching the giddy heights of Foreign
Secretary. I also concede that because of this that of the 3 currently
declared candidates (him, his brother and Ed Balls) he appears the
most plausible Prime Ministerial candidate.

The problem is that is true right now. And if we were to have another
election in 2011 then it is possible that D Miliband would be best as
Labour's leader. Just. But if we assume the election will be in 4 or 5
years time then that no longer holds true. In that sort of timeframe
another contender such as E Miliband or even someone less well known
would have a long time to grow into the job. It would also mean it
would be much easier to break with the past. D Miliband is far too
implicated in the Blair and Brown governments to be credibly able to
appear as the change that is needed.

Labour would do well to look at what happened with the Conservatives
in 2005. Who had heard of David Cameron before he threw his hat into
the ring? He seemed to come almost from nowhere (as far as much of the
public were concerned) and was much more plausible as a change
candidate as a result. Would David Davis, member of the old guard (and
just like David Miliband the strong early favourite) have been as
effective in the role. I would suggest that it would have been very
difficult for him.

So the Labour electoral college should think carefully as to whether
they want to install their own member of the old guard or instead to
truly embrace change.

To make the best decision on that, they first have to accept the
likelihood that the coalition will run close to its full term.


Alex said...

Shhhhhh mark

tomandclaire said...

Met D. Milliband once at a charity do hosted by my wife. He is the type of person, that when talking to you, is constantly looking over your left shoulder for someone more important ( or more interesting) than you. Either I am a boring b*****d or he is an arrogant p***k. :-)

Emma Burnell said...

I like David, but I'm supporting Ed for roughly the reasons you articulate.

The thing is, everyone seems to be acting like this is a first past the post election and it isn't.

As David is only candidate of the "right", he will get less second preferences than the others. So he may well get more first choice votes but not win overall.

No commentary I have seen anywhere seems to acknowledge this. Am I Wrong, Mad or trapped in 1983? (might have gone slightly off topic at the end there...)

Lisa Ansell said...

I think danger may in fact be the opposite. I like Ed Milliband, but do not think he is qualified to be PM- while am no fan of David Milliband- I do think there is something to be said for a candidate who demonstrates clear ability to deal with that job, over someone who is likeable.

I think one of issues I have with this leadership contest- is that the desire to portray unity as a party-may lead to a contest that isn't in fact a contest.

I think Labour are in great danger of appointing a leader in a rush- and it being perceived as a foregone conclusion if Milliband wins. More time for candidates to gather support they need, and an honest open contest, which asks real questions about where Labour is what is necessary- regardless of who wins leadership challenge.

Mark Reckons said...

But Lisa, nominations close in 8 days. That does not give much time for potential candidates to gather support. I would like to see a more diverse range of candidates but I fear the process is against this happening.

Emma - very good point. The deputy leadership election in 2007 was run under the same system and the result of that was pretty unpredictable too. All the more argument for a wildcard entrant or two to shake things up in my view!
You never know what might happen. Who dares wins Rodders. Who dares wins.

Emma Burnell said...

Latest news is that it is quite likely that nominations will be extended.

Anonymous said...

I think that you are absolutely right in the suggestion that someone who isn't fully connected in the Blair/Brown governments would be ideal, someone different who over 5 years can take Labour in a new direction would be great. Who knew of Cameron before 2005 after all?