Sunday, 29 August 2010

The Labour Leadership Contest

Ballot papers will be sent out this week in the contest for the leadership of the Labour party. Five candidates are running in a complicated electoral system, where those entitled to vote can endorse a first and second preference, for leader of their party. The system uses an electoral college format. Whereby, one third of the votes goes to MP’s and MEP’s, a third to affiliated organisations such as trade unions and the co-operative society, and a third to ordinary members. There are anomalies, like MP’s being able to vote in all three constituencies, should they fulfil the criteria, so it is a strange system of democracy.

The election has not grabbed the attention of the media or public at large, perhaps because there is so little to choose between the candidates ideologically, but it is an important contest, with the winner a possible prime minister, maybe in the not too distant future given the cracks that are appearing in the ConDem coalition government.

So to the candidates on offer.

Diane Abbott, struggled to get the required number of MP’s nominations to get onto the ballot and has David Miliband, the front runner candidate to thank for asking his supporters to nominate her, which is rather humiliating really. It does highlight though the extent of rightward drift in the Labour party, that someone with Abbott’s views, which were pretty mainstream Labour a generation ago, has so little support in the Parliamentary Labour Party now.

Ed Balls has run a pugnacious campaign, attacking the ConDem government at every opportunity, but seems to have no significant support in any of the three constituencies. In my view, he is too Gordon Brown like, his mentor, when Labour wants to put behind them the Brown years, because of his lack of popularity.

Andy Burnham always looks like a schoolboy when I see him on television, and he seems to have not much support in the Labour party either. Likely to finish in fifth place, I think.

Then we have the Miliband boys, David and Ed. One of these two will be the next leader of the Labour party, although apparently their mum will be voting for Diane Abbott. David, the former Foreign Secretary, flies the standard of New Labour, the don’t frighten the horses with anything too social democratic tendency. He is also it would appear, complicit in the rendition and subsequent torture of terrorist suspects on his watch at the FO, but is portrayed as a vote winner with ‘middle England’.

Ed Miliband’s pitch has been to try and recapture those voters (and members) who deserted Labour over the Iraq war and anti civil liberties policies, and maybe more. He is talking a more social democratic language than his older brother, and is hoping to pick up more second preferences in the process. Both are good communicators, although at this stage, David has more gravitas.

From a purely Green party electoral point of view, it would probably be best if David Miliband becomes Labour leader, because that would leave the largest electoral gap on the left in British politics. We have done well out of standing to the left of Labour over recent years and this would continue best I think, with David Miliband leading Labour.

If I had a vote in the election, I would probably vote for Diane Abbott, and give my second preference to Ed Miliband. It will be interesting to see the result, as it will be a barometer of how Labour sees itself for the next few years.

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