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So who will win the Labour leadership? And does it matter? Whenever Labour has gone into opposition after a substantial period of government, it has had to change leaders two or more times before finding the person able to unlock the door back to power.

This time, it may be different. And for the first time in any Labour leadership contest since the party's founding moment in 1906 there is none of the bitter infighting that splits and scars a party for years to come.

On the contrary, there is a cocky complacency in Labour's ranks that the Tory-Lib Dem alliance will not last. David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Gordon Brown were all losers in May. Cameron was the first Conservative in generations unable to win a majority despite the Labour PM's unpopularity and the country's rejection of a government without purpose or principle. Clegg was the first Lib Dem leader to preside over a loss of seats for his party, squandering the heritage that Paddy Ashdown and Charlie Kennedy handed on to him. Brown was the most obvious loser but the extraordinary creation of the coalition in the biggest remaking of the parliamentary landscape in 150 years has obscured the fact that both Dave and Nick also failed to achieve the goals they had set for themselves in the run-up to the election.

But the coalition has also allowed Labour to skip over its traditional five to ten years of navel-gazing and squabbling and instead organise a remarkable leadership contest in which there have been no quarrels, no ideological fissures and a remarkable reach-out to party members, including 30,000 new ones since May. If Cameron became party leader on the basis of one walk-the-stage speech in October 2005, and Obama became President because US Democrats could not stomach another Clinton in the White House, then whoever emerges from Labour's exhaustive process will have met, addressed and talked to more party members and debated with fellow candidates more than we have seen in any other democratic party in the world. Having been unable to replace Brown by someone electable while he was PM, Labour is making up for its failure to take leadership seriously by insisting on the toughest procedure to find their new man.

And man it will be. Diane Abbott is a pure product of the non-Eton road to membership of the governing class. Harrow County School for Girls was followed by Cambridge, a fast-track into the civil service and then a safe seat in her thirties. Ms Abbott has turned her MP status into rich earnings from the media. No talent has been so wasted. She owes her place on the ballot paper to Blairite MPs who rushed to nominate her so that the party's Left would have someone they saw as their own.

In fact, the real woman winner in the leadership process has been Harriet Harman, who has had a splendid three months as acting leader. She has regularly tripped up Cameron during PMQs, focusing on anonymity in rape cases or cuts to poor mothers, which resonate with those whom Labour has to win back. She dines regularly with MPs and sits with the new intake in the Tea Room. Whoever becomes leader, Harriet is now the most powerful woman in Labour history. In Tea Room discussion after Tea Room discussion, MPs beg her to stay on. But she wisely knows that her strength lies in not having that ambition.

For the rest, the problem is that they are all four peas from the same pod — two brothers, two called Ed, all the same age, the same Oxbridge policy adviser background, parachuted into safe seats and then waltzed into the cabinet. None has been an exceptionally good or bad minister. All stayed faithfully in the tracks laid down by Blair and Brown. David Miliband at least took one big decision when he was offered the job of European Foreign Minister. He turned it down, telling friends he wanted to stay in Britain to save Labour from Brown and the post-election effects of Brownism.

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