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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23 Responses to “Labour should go slow”

  1. alexsmith1982

    RT @leftfootfwd: Labour should go slow

  2. Peter Murphy

    RT @leftfootfwd: Labour should go slow

  3. ciphergoth

    Labour should learn from Michael Howard and slow down the leadership contest to win the next election signed by my MP!

  4. Vicki Butler

    RT @leftfootfwd: Labour needs to be an Opposition first and choose its leader in the autumn after a proper post-mortem

  5. Vicki Butler

    RT @leftfootfwd: Labour needs to be an Opposition first and choose its leader in the autumn after a proper post-mortem

  6. Justin Baidoo

    RT @leftfootfwd: Labour needs to be an Opposition first and choose its leader in the autumn after a proper post-mortem

  7. Jose Aguiar

    RT @leftfootfwd: Labour should go slow

  8. House Of Twits

    RT @leftfootfwd Labour needs to be an Opposition first and choose its leader in the autumn after a proper post-mortem

  9. Serena

    RT @leftfootfwd: Labour needs to be an Opposition first and choose its leader in the autumn after a proper post-mortem

  10. Bryn The Cat

    Couldn’t agree more with this. Milliband(s) et al should calm down. We’re a long time likely in opposition, at least 5 years I suspect, though I pray for 2 🙂 Why rush now. Will’s final comment is the most important. Lets’s see what the Tory-Dems inflict on us in the June budget. That is what the new leader must fight and I want to hear what they think about it before I vote for one of them…

  11. Matthew Cain

    Agreed. But if we get the election process right, there’s no reason why it shoul be internal rather than inclusive. The more we do this in public (granted many won’t want to hear from Labour at the moment) the less it will be destructive.

    My own thoughts are here, if you can help improve the idea:

  12. Anon E Mouse

    Will – Bang on the money but remember whatever cuts are coming down the line will be blamed on the previous government.

    I also agree with Bryn The Cat that the Milibands should calm down – wait until the party conference I say before announcing leadership challenges and let’s copy the Tories with their Primaries thing – that just looks good to the public and keeps positive Labour stories in the media.

    Finally let’s hope Dromey, Balls, Harman and co are resoundingly put in their place and no Campbell or Mandelson please – they are simply too polemic for the majority of people in this country.

    Can’t you speak to your old man and get him to stand?

  13. Mr. Sensible

    Will I’d say that is a bit of a gamble. The Con Dem Nation (Thank You, Daily Mirror) might talk the talk about 5 years, but it’s day 3 and the cracks are starting to emerge.

    We could yet end up with a second election; I read somewhere that Ladbrooks are cutting the odds of a second election to evens and Labour want to go in with a leader in place.

  14. Michael Flynn

    Why not take time? With the increased political awareness following the election Labour should use the leadership contest as a platform to air their policies!

  15. Michael Collins

    Labour needs a new leader who can act as a bridge between the old Blairite/Brownite acrimony, and the future generation.

    Some of the younger candidates – such as David Milliband – are tainted by their association with the bitter personal and party divisions of the past. Ed Balls and David Milliband must not be allowed to repeat the rivalries of the Blair-Brown years.

    And however “clever” the younger folk are supposed to be, they are not ready for power. Crucially, they do not connect well with the wider public. They are (and look like/sound like) Oxbridge-educated policy wonks.

    There are two scenarios looking ahead. A combination of infighting and/or economic instability may bring down the coalition. In that case we need a leader who is a mature, calming and consensual influence. As has been said, in the event of an election in the next 24 months, Labour could benefit enormously from the anti-LD backlash.

    But, if the coalition functions well, Labour may be out of power for some time. In this scenario, we also need a ‘transition’ candidate who is well placed to guide the party through a period of renewal and self-examination.

    Alan Johnson has a great gift for communication, and the wider public – especially the disenfranchised Labour vote – will identify strongly with him. He would constitute an excellent contrast to Clegg and Cameron. He could take advantage of coalition failure, or guide the party through a prolonged period of opposition.

    For the sake of the party, and the country he should reconsider his decision not to stand.

  16. Anon E Mouse

    Michael Collins – Agree on Alan Johnson but there is another scenario you haven’t considered.

    What if the Lib-Dems turn out to be OK in government? Certainly the humour with Cameron the other day was an absolute breath of fresh air compared to Labour ministers looking serious, po faced and blabbing about “The serious business of government” etc. Labour needs to just lighten up.

    My point is that if this coalition works and it just might, what then for the left in this country?

    Clegg can argue he has been in government and the Lib Dems childish, sixth form student debating type policies, such as Trident will be quietly dropped.

    Now you have the Tories right of centre: the Lib-Dems left of centre so why vote for Labour?

    The time Labour spends in opposition needs to be spent looking to the future and not spent fighting the last election that they lost. Some of the articles on this blog need to get real – negativity about one’s opponents clearly doesn’t work.

    Let’s have a positive Labour message and see what happens…

  17. StephenH

    It’s a good point about the emergency budget… but who on the Labour side is going to respond to this?

    Alastair Darling, Gordon Brown or ANother??

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  20. Janice Robinson

    Yes, take it slowly and also listen. This will mean listening to things we might find unpalatable But Margaret Hodge and John Cruddas had to and it proved fruitful. It will be easy for Labour to become chauvinistic about how to respond, especially as the Lib Dems have gone to the Tories. But Labour cannot do this on it’s own. Labour do need at least need a few people to vote for it in the south east outside of London. Labour must rebuild and re-engage. The huge election victories of the Blair years meant that the party was able to abandon modernisation and thorny issues were forgotten. I am thinking of welfare and electoral reform.

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