Labour should go slow

Pressure is building on Labour to spend time finding a new leader. A letter in this morning's Guardian makes the case for a slower leadership contest.

Pressure is building on the Labour party to spend months rather than weeks finding a new leader. After a series of articles in the blogosphere, a letter in this morning’s Guardian sets out the case for a slower leadership contest. Labour members are also encouraged to sign an online petition and write to caretaker leader Harriet Harman and General Secretary Ray Collins.

This morning’s Guardian carries a letter co-ordinated by the left-wing pressure group Compass and co-signed by a range of party activists including myself. It says:

“We cannot afford to rush, and there is no need to. The Tories and Lib Dems have locked themselves into a deadly embrace of pain and cuts before they can hope for any improvement in the polls. With a 77-seat majority, this is likely to be a five-year term. So first we need an inquest, not just into the campaign, but the last 13 years, with an open and honest appraisal of what worked and what didn’t. Then and only then should a full-scale leadership contest begin.”

Earlier this week, Sunder Katwala set out five reasons why the Labour party should go slow on Next Left. He points out that no Leader of the Opposition elected immediately after an election defeat has ever made it to Prime Minister in the post-war period and that the party needs a process that brings in new voters and captures the media and spotlight in the normally dead time of August and September. He also outlines that the Tories selected David Cameron on a “go slow” model but William Hague and IDs in a post-election rush. This point is echoed by Tom Watson MP, writing on Liberal Conspiracy, who also calls for a TV debate:

“So why don’t we learn from Michael Howard? Why not turn our conference into a platform for our future leaders. Give a day to each candidate to make their pitch. We could even test their TV skills with a big election-style debate.”

I would set out one further reason: The Emergency Budget will take place in late June. Does the Labour party really want to be focused on itself rather than the future of the country at that crucial juncture?

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