Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Ed-less Chickens

So Ed[ward] Miliband has gone as Labour party leader, and the contest is on for his replacement. This often happens just after a failed General Election attempt – but should it?

The Guardian, of all places, raises a number of valid points in its editorial today, suggesting that the party should have waited for the new MPs in particular to have settled in and to have had the chance to witness those who would become leadership (and deputy leader) contenders in action, at close hand.

The piece also criticises several features of Labour's leader election methodology – partly improved since five years ago, but still with many issues that could be avoided. For example, Tristram Hunt has been unable to secure the 15% of MPs' nominations that he needs to be able to enter the contest. That seems to be a significant loss, whatever one might think of him (and views are very varied, including that he is or is not leader material) and the resultant choice is diminished as a consequence.

It currently looks like Andy Burnham is the front-runner – which is great for the other parties, the Conservatives in particular, as he has such a bad personal track record and is even easier to skewer than Ed-M has been. Future Prime Minister's Questions sessions will be highly entertaining for those who are not Labour supporters if Burnham becomes the next Labour leader.

Yvette Cooper looks to be second choice, though there is a school of thought that suggests Labour people would never accept a female leader – deputy, yes, but not the party's actual leader. This factor alone also tends to scupper the chances of the other current contenders, Mary Creagh and the quite promising Liz Kendall (though I'd suggest her for deputy rather than leader anyway, myself, and not just because of that issue I just mentioned).

Of course, that school of thought might prove to be incorrect; and there are still a few more weeks to get in one or two additional candidates, each with the 35 MPs' support that each needs. Obviously with 15% being the magic fraction, only six candidates at maximum can enter the race.

Overall, procedurally I go along with the suggestion in the linked piece of having an interim leader and a decision on a 'permanent' replacement for Ed-M taken two or three years down the road. However it is already under way, and the Unions are still finding ways to manipulate the leadership decision (a large number of current Labour MPs are tied-up with the big Unions one way or another, for a start, which helps), so perhaps it wouldn't achieve anything to push for it this far in.

The consequence is that the party is now all over the place, and is already in what Iain Martin calls 'a dangerous position', with a risk of 'teetering on becoming a joke'. He's not wrong – and it could have been avoided. Now they are likely 'Ed-less' chickens...

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