I haven’t decided yet who I’ll back for Labour Leader, or for Deputy. I’m listening to them all and waiting until all the nominations are in. I know what I’m looking for though. All the candidates have some of the requisite qualities, but does anyone have them all?
All our leadership candidates hold strong Labour values. A battle for the purest soul held in the public arena will only damage Labour. We’re looking for a rallying point for our movement and a future winner who can give us the chance, as a Labour government, to make this country the fairer, kinder, more inclusively prosperous country we know it can be. I respect all our candidates, and whoever is elected will have my support (inclusive of constructive criticism), as Jeremy did.
The Leader needs the confidence of the Parliamentary Labour Party, the members, the unions and affiliated societies, and of course the voters. We forget the voters and what they want at our peril. The new leader will shape the debate and bring people with them. No more us and them- future success rests on reaching out to those of ‘us’ who lost faith in Labour. This balance will be an ongoing challenge, but a successful leader will hold the team together. It can be done.
First and foremost, the most important role the Leader of the Labour Party will play in the short to medium term is that of a very effective Leader of the Opposition. This period in our country’s politics is vital to shaping a positive future, or not, if we fail to limit the damage potential of this Conservative government. We need a leader who can hit PMQs hard on week one and ensure relentless and forensic scrutiny of all government policies, and particularly the small print of the Withdrawal Agreement and Political Declaration for Brexit. Johnson needs to be kept working hard and exposed to the cold light of day every day.
Opposition to the Conservatives needs to have substance. The work David Lammy did to force Theresa May’s hand on Grenfell, Windrush and BAME students at Oxbridge is the kind of detailed and effective graft the Shadow Cabinet, led by the Leader, needs to undertake day in and day out. David isn’t standing but he’ll surely keep up the good work, as will others like Yvette Cooper, and I sincerely hope we’ll see them both on the front benches. The new Shadow Cabinet will be our Government in waiting and it has the potential to be a very convincing one.
Keir Starmer and Emily Thornberry have the Dispatch Box experience to tackle Johnson and co, so maybe in the short term we need one of them to take on the Tories. I like having interim leadership to keep quality opposition going while we as a party get our ducks in a row. However, both Keir and Emily want more permanent positions and are eying up Number 10. Can anyone from Corbyn’s Shadow Cabinet regain the confidence of the country by 2024? Voters mention Keir Starmer to me fairly regularly as someone they could get behind.
Rebecca Long-Bailey would have been a good choice 12-18 months ago if we had had the foresight to go into a General Election under new leadership. She carries the policy flag for Jeremy Corbyn without the personal baggage, and I have a lot of respect for her work on the Green Industrial Revolution which we need to continue to build on as a central element of our vision for Britain.
What about the others then? Clive Lewis has made a pitch on the basis of truth-telling and democratisation of the Party. His sustainability focus for policy is essential for whoever leads the Party, but his pitch seems inward facing, rather than tackling the Tories head on while ensuring we have relevance in the busy lives of the British people.
I have to say I like Jess Phillips and I know she’d give Johnson a run for his money. Does she have the support of our membership? She gets quite a few positive mentions from voters, so there’s a thought. It seems people want a personality that can counter the bombast from Johnson, and Jess does have that, but Labour leaders also need gravitas because they always need to work extra hard. Her brutal honesty is refreshing and she is very relatable.
I also like Lisa Nandy- she is calm, clear and to the point. She has nailed the concepts of identity and place that are vital for our policy development going forward. She speaks to what voters want from Labour. She needs to be in the Shadow Cabinet steering our policy direction and is perhaps the right person to lead us into the next General Election. I wonder whether she needs to grow in profile and stature to counter Johnson, but I expect she’d learn that pretty fast on the job. To me, she seems the most likely candidate to hit the right political notes to regain our traditional voter base who voted Tory or Brexit Party this time.
As for Deputy, this is another thing. We need someone the membership can get behind, who we know will be looking out for our interests, our values, party democracy, inclusion, growing the grassroots. It has to be someone you can picture stepping into the leadership position if necessary. The stand out candidate so far is Angela Rayner who is engaging and authentic. She’s the most capable and likeable of the candidates for Deputy so far.
A good balance across Leader and Deputy Leader of personality, background and politics will make for a formidable and winning team. They won’t be doing this alone anyway. We can stack the Shadow Cabinet full of talent who can easily outshine the new low bar the Conservatives have set for ministerial appointments. But to do this we need to be open again to bringing a confluence of socialist and social democratic ideas to the table.
I’m pretty hopeful actually.