Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Wanted: More candidates

I have to confess to being decidedly underwhelmed thus far by the Labour leadership election. Aside from the fact that many of the best candidates have ruled themselves out of the running on the grounds of age - always a depressing state of affairs for those of us who are nearer 50 than 40 - the distinctly monochrome nature of the four leading candidates, all white middle-class males who moved into important positions in government on the back of having once been junior research assistants to Gordon Brown or Tony Blair, leaves little to get excited about.

Of the four - I am discounting Diane Abbott and John McDonnell as no-hopers - the one that has so far talked the most sense is Andy Burnham. He at least seems to have some understanding of the Labour Party's roots, and a coherent story to tell about how it managed to lose touch with its natural supporters over recent years. I have also, in the past two days, been impressed by Ed Balls: the new government's divisive new education reforms, a throwback to the mid-1990s mania for grant-maintained status, will surely give him a platform from which to rally support.

Of the Miliblands, there is much less positive to be said from my point of view. To tell the truth, I would not be unhappy with either of them as leader, and David's so-called 'Blairite' credentials - a fatal drawback if genuine - have always been seriously overplayed in my view. But I wonder whether either of them are quite combative enough for the role at a time when the Con-Lib coalition is threatening to carry all before it.

Certainly Harriet Harman made a good stab at puncturing David Cameron's growing self-confidence this week, and I still don't think it is entirely outside the bounds of possibility that she could come into the race. For one, I don't think she would be entirely happy to see Abbott carrying the torch for Labour's wimmin. For another, I think it's very noticeable that some of the key Brownites who were behind her deputy leadership campaign - the likes of Nick Brown and Kevan Jones - have yet to declare for any of the other candidates.

What this is all leading up to is that, to my mind, the field is currently way too narrow. I am hugely disappointed that Yvette Cooper has decided not to stand - if brother can stand against brother, then why not wife against husband? - but I do understand her reasons. No such considerations apply, however, to the other great absentee from the race - Ben Bradshaw.

He was an experienced and successful minister. He was not clearly associated with either Brown or Blair but was regarded as having been loyal to both men. He has an interesting personal backstory that resonates with 21st century Britain. He is good-looking, articulate and good on TV. Perhaps most importantly of all, he has had a life outside the Westminster goldfish bowl and a successful career in the real world. Why is he not standing?

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Daily Pundit said...

Spot on Paul. Labour does need a scrapper but Ed Balls would have the media against him from day one. D Milli is too wierd, aloof and awkward, and Andy Burnham is too nice. That just leaves Ed Milli. He's nowhere near combative enough but at least he's a blank canvas. You're right about Ben Bradshaw by the way. Very charismatic. But he seems like a fella who's got better things to do than be Prime Minister.

Alan Douglas said...

Compared tt that lot, I'd say, Come Back Michael Foot, all is forgiven !

This is the legacy of Brown stabbing every potential rival in the back. I hate Labour, but even I can see some good men, all of whom are now ex-this or ex-that.

Serves you right for allowing a multiply UN-elected monomaniac his "turn" at the controls.

Alan Douglas

Anonymous said...

My own view on why Ben Bradshaw has made the right decision not to stand is my reaction to his appearance with Adam Boulton the day Alistair Campbell had his run in. Bradshaw came across as smug, entitled and supercilious in a manner little seen since Patricia Hewitt stepped down as a minister. Throw in that Bradshaw was as brazen as Peter Hain in begging the Lib Dems for a coalition and his appeal is very limited.

Paul Linford said...

I disagree with you of course anonymous but I certainly welcome this or any other insights into why Ben has decided not to stand - if indeed he has decided.

Anonymous said...

Seems to be par for the course

LibDem Party leadership contest No Women

Conservative Party leadership contest No Women

Sam said...

Maybe Ben is trying to avoid being the 'William Hague' of the Labour Party - or rather, he is making the gamble that the next leader will fail, and doesn't either want to be that leader, or be seen to have lost a leadership race against them.

Then again, does this risk him being the 'Ian Duncan Smith' of the Labour Party? ;-)

Anonymous said...

Someone else who should stand is John Denham.