Well it’s shaping up to either be an interesting fight, or the greatest fix since the last time they fiddled the votes: yes – once again, we’re choosing a Labour leader, and yes, you’ll have needed to be a Labour party member for an awfully long time to remember the last time they did that with any real dignity.
The contenders are the usual suspects for the most part, Ed Miliband, David Miliband and Ed Balls are the bookies choice at the moment, but there’s a few dark horses, not least Andy Burnham, Diane Abbott, and the seemingly very angry John McDonnall – they’d have also had John Cruddas if he hadn’t bottled it (again).
As an amused bystander you could dismiss this charade as a chance to crown another anointed leader, but I’m not sure that the grass roots is quite that stupid: they’ve seen what that gets them – so I’m a little confused that the Milibandits and Balls ticket is simply more of the same, with some toe-curling apologies thrown in: and if that were me, and I was a Labour voter, the sight of all three prostrating themselves in the popular press saying how wrong Iraq was the week my blood would be boiling: these people were in senior positions – they could have voted against Iraq, they could have spoken out, but they didn’t. And that’s not because they were blind to the issue, it’s because they were utterly spineless. So when voting for your next leader just remember that. Think carefully; does the country honestly need a spineless apologist as the leader of the opposition, and does the party need someone that can talk to the middle classes or reconnect with the C2 working class who entirely abandoned the Labour party (perhaps for good) at the last election.
If they’ve any sense they’ll look at the dark horses, Andy Burnham is a bit of an enigma to me – I’d be hard pressed to say where his priorities lay, and his low key press launch didn’t help: but the quietly spoken man shouldn’t be underestimated. His no-glitz approach might pay dividends (although someone should tell his web designer as the current design inspired this). Diane Abbott is a fascinating other runner: deeply entrenched in Labour’s London heartlands she’s popular with the people and the press, and although not entirely unfamiliar with controversy, you get the feeling that if she doesn’t crash and burn then she might do unexpectedly well: she’s certainly advocating a slight turn to the left for the party, and a reform of policy, especially where civil liberties are concerned. Finally there’s (at this moment) John McDonnall, he seems the most angry candidate, angry with the party, it’s policies, it’s centrism and the rise of focus group politics. He’d certainly move the party left – quite a long way left if he had the chance: and I think he is the one to watch to gauge how happy the party is with being in opposition.
It’s a long game – no resolution until September at the earliest: so it’s going to be a long dissection, and I get the feeling it won’t be a particularly pleasant one for the Labour party. If I were remotely interested in this in anyway beyond my own personal amusement my money would be on Ed Miliband: centerist enough generally but with a firm lean to the left when he needs it he’s remote enough from New Labour (compared to Balls and Miliband D) to potentially escape the brush that he’s just as tainted as all the others.