What should Labour’s leadership contest be about?

This blog will remain neutral during the Labour leadership election. But we want to ensure that the contest is about the future of the party's policy & organisation.

Left Foot Forward is looking forward to the splinters. Yep, we’re sitting on the fence in the forthcoming Labour leadership election.

We’re clear that the process should be months, rather than weeks, culminating in hustings at the Labour conference in Manchester. We want to see as wide a range of candidates as possible. And, critically, we want a genuine debate about the future direction of the Labour party in relation to both policy and organisation.

To kick off this process, we propose here five questions that we think should define the leadership contest. But these are very much initial thoughts and we’d welcome our readers’ views in the comments section as to whether these are the right points to address. This time next week, we’ll publish a revised list of questions and use it to frame our analysis of the leadership election ahead.

1. Economy: Public spending was 36 per cent of GDP in 1999 and has risen to 48 per cent (partly the result of the recession). Net receipts are currently project to reach 38 per cent by 2011-12? What does the Labour party believe is the right size of the state? How do we pay for that? And what is the state’s role once that level has been set?

2. Environment: Tackling climate change is more critical now than ever before. In the face of fierce lobbying by vested interests, and mounting public scepticism how do we inject a sense of urgency into addressing the problem? How would you take steps not just to build a clean energy economy – vital as that is – but also to dismantle the old, unsustainable economy in order that Britain can deliver on the targets set out in the Climate Change Act?

3. New politics: The coalition government is now committed to a referendum on the Alternative Vote, House of Lords reform, recall, and fixed terms. The Labour government arguably failed to deliver on its promises in these areas. What explains our inability to deliver full constitutional reform? How can we ensure that Labour pushes the new Government further on constitutional change and campaigns aggressively in a referendum on AV?

4. The election: Polling suggests that Labour support among skilled manual (C2) workers fell from 45 per cent in 2005 to 23 per cent. Support from 18-34 years olds fell from 41 per cent to 32 per cent. What explain this? Where else has support been lost? How should Labour try and win it back?

5. The party: Across parts of the country – particularly London, Birmingham, and the northwest – good local campaigns helped increase some majorities, hold ultra-marginal seats, and win back councils. How should the party reform to embrace this local action? How should Labour learn from the “respect, empower, include” mantra of the Obama campaign?

What do you think?

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