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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46 Responses to “What should Labour’s leadership contest be about?”

  1. House Of Twits

    RT @leftfootfwd What should Labour's leadership contest be about? What are your thoughts? http://bit.ly/ccUS4i

  2. Aaron Porter

    RT @leftfootfwd What should Labour's leadership contest be about? What are your thoughts? http://bit.ly/ccUS4i

  3. Alistair Dunsmuir

    I think there’s a massive centre-left support for proportional representation now, and with that, considerable anger that the Lib Dems have sold out on their desire for it.

    I know it will be tough for any leader candidate to convince his party that it should go for PR, as some Labour MPs will lose their seats as a result. But it is the right thing to do.

    And if it’s the right thing to do, the country – the electorate – will fight with that leader to make it happen.

  4. abelard

    Any leader that can give the people representation in government will win my support.

    We need proportional representation in the electoral system.

    From that policies will be better.

    With PR we would have got all the good things that the Labour government did: Minimum wage, smoking ban, hunting ban, sure start etc

    And with PR we probably wouldn’t have got all the bad things: Iraq war, the assault on civil liberties, policies (including banning drugs) based on newspaper hysteria, the digital economies bill, a hunting ban that didnt go far enough etc

    A weaker executive that’s checked by a representative parliament would be wonderful.

    Also, I’d like any leader to say that if he/she was PM then he/she would only serve for a maximum of 8 years. Power corrupts.

  5. Martin Mayer

    What should Labour's leadership contest be about? | Left Foot Forward http://ow.ly/17nJTM

  6. Bob W

    Don’t mention the war! The New Labour leadership did not mention it, but unfortunately they seem to have gotten got away with it.

  7. Will Tisdale

    RT @leftfootfwd: What should Labour's leadership contest be about? http://bit.ly/ccUS4i

  8. keyo

    Whether the Brothers Milliband should be a dual Premiership and should they buy a St Bernard to be the deputy Prime minister.

  9. Silent Hunter

    How about finding some one with an ounce of integrity in the Labour Party?

    A tall order; I grant you, given that Hazel Blears is STILL there – wtf were the people of Salford thinking to return her again?

    Labour stands for sleaze & corruption – until you fix that; Labour is doomed to a slow demise to obscurity – a well deserved demise I would add, given all the utter shite you have presided over in 13 years.

  10. Carl Legge

    A thought on the economy. We need to look at the national income side of the equation too. Strategically, how should the country’s economy shape up to the world? Are we to move from relying on shaky financial services for GDP? What proportion of the economy should be manufacturing (basic/high value, precision etc), green technologies, creative industries etc? And what should the state’s role be in shaping this? What is our attitude to science as a stimulus? As a result of our view what are the right fiscal and investment policies to make things happen?

  11. steven III

    people of salford are scrounging parasites (have you ever been to the shite-hole?) of course they vote labour.

    labour stands for nothing but power. labour is a political deviance like paedophilia is a sexual deviance

  12. Denyse Nante

    I think it should be Trust. Not because of the reasons above (it was an all party problem) but because after the expense scandal and now the coalition deal lots of people feel betrayed. I don’t agree that Labour completely lost touch with its voters, but that it didn’t articulate well enough all the good it stands for, or express sufficiently its achievements that most seem to take for granted. So for me building Trust; continued aspiration for all and a reminder of its sound principles – all topped off with a sprinkling of honest answers and a touch of humour.

  13. Tory

    We are In massive debt. With a deficit almost as large as Greece’s, nobody can really argue that point. Progressives argue that only direct intervention and Market regulation can ride the recession storm and allow Britain to emerge unscathed.

    With this left-wing ideal in mind, please explain to me the logic of the VAT reduction. Those shops and businesses that did decide to lower their prices, things still did not really cost less. When the wealthy purchased their luxuries however, their wallets remained significantly heavier than they would have been prior to VAT reduction. The cost of this rich serving venture? A lot more debt…


  14. LiberalCommunist

    Agree that a longer process, including thorough debate, would be healthier all round.

    What about civil liberties? One of the most nefarious elements of the New Labour project was its obsessive attacks on democratic freedoms. As long as this obsession remains – and unless the Labour Party actively welcome the new government’s forthcoming repeals – their claims to be a “progressive party” are absurd. How will a future Labour government safeguard the civil liberties they spent 13 years divesting us of?

    Immigration: seems you can either respond to concerns about immigration by making populist promises to “sort it out” or by tackling the issues head-on, being honest about the fact that immigrants contribute (have always contributed) far, far more than they take. Issues such as wage depression and occasional pressure on local services can either be tackled through tougher regulation/trade union powers and appropriate investment respectively, or by blaming immigrants and stoking resentment. What is Labour’s approach to be?

    Big Society: Will Labour – given its history and roots – be dismissing calls for a renewal of civil society, or will they instead be offering an alternative, genuine and authentic committment to helping rebuild citizen participation in economic, social and political decision making.

    And, er, the proverbial elephant in the room: Iraq. How can any progressive voter be reassured that a furture Labour Govt will not pursue a criminally insane foreign policy?

  15. keyo

    Dont mention, trust or truth or freedom,British jobs for British workers, oops forgot you dropped that one a while back.

  16. Fred Chukkawakka

    RT @AaronPorter: RT @leftfootfwd What should Labour's leadership contest be about? What are your thoughts? http://bit.ly/ccUS4i

  17. Dan


    Perhaps it would be easier to discuss your points if you did not conflate the deficit with the national debt.

    The debt can easily be paid off, when the assets the Labour Government took in return (the banking stakes) are sold back; or progressively reduced, through a state-led direction of this productive capital into domestic manufacturing, housebuilding, re-equipping the economy e.g. ‘Green New Deal’ and so forth.

    The deficit is a problem not of over-spending, but falling tax receipts due to the recession. The only way to deal with this is maintaining consumption, and keeping the economy going until it naturally returns to growth. The VAT cut served both these aims.

  18. Michael Parkinson

    Social Justice and Equality will quite rightly be highlighted by any of the leadership contenders. What about taking steps to ensure Social Justice in the workplace? Also, surely the last thirteen years have shown us that Equality cannot be achieved without reversing the balance of power between employers and employees. This means giving the Trade Unions new powers to organise and affect ecconomic policies. How will any future leader provide Trade Unions with a stronger and more effective voice both within the party and in the workplace?

  19. gankon

    those 5 points hardly makes a drunken conversation let alone a platform for a political party

    1 labour has to pretend to be fiscally responsible after the 1978/79 2009/2010 debacle. just shouting ‘tory cuts’ isn’t good enough

    2 only 1 way to make a low carb economy. that’s a carbon tax. ie a market based reform labour is ideologically opposed to

    3 yawn

    4 the reason labour support has fallen is that most of the last 13 years has been a disaster. you couldn’t even start to list them but constant warmongering and wrecking the nations finances must be the top 2.

    5 the whole ‘changey hopey’ thing. grow up

  20. Benjamin

    The Labour leadership contest should be about the links between, on the one hand, democratic renewal (electoral reform, devolution, pluralism), and social democracy and a fairer society on the other.

    Social democracy and a stronger left can grow through a parliament and institutions that are more pluralistic and democratic.

    Democratic reform should be high on the agenda.

  21. Tory

    “maintaining consumption, and keeping the economy going”

    Apparantly we needed a VAT cut to serve both those things? The VAT drop served neither of those things and you can’t say if it were not for the drop that they wouldnt not.

    As for what you try and explain away as ignorance regarding the deficit, you are wrong once again.

    Our deficit is what we are spending but not taking in, the whole in our economy which grows when we constantly spend beyond our means. The VAT cut was an expense that did not help the economy and cost us a lot more than we could afford. The money we needed to invest to help see us through the recession would have been affordable if it wasn’t for the our budget deficit and Labour’s terrible spending habits! I use the debt and deficit along with one another because our debt means we cannot and should not spend beyond our means!

    And the debt can easily be paid off? Well you seem to be the only person who believes that! Greece’s debts may be paid off easily too, except the people don’t think so..

    But then again you on the left leave us to pay it all of and take the brunt of the harship, only to enter office again and throw it all down the drain!

  22. Tory

    hole in economy*

  23. Chris

    I’d like to see a different take on society that isn’t focussed on making as many people as possible middle class. People don’t mind being wealthless, they mind being worthless. Everybody, whatever their background, has that thumping desire to achieve; but you don’t need to go to university or become a manager to satisfy it. People will work for almost no money if they know they are doing something that’s needed and it allows them to build a stable life.

    The army is currently one of the only institutions that will take poor people with no qualifications and offer them worth. In a world where armies are hopefully going to become less important, I’d like to see more institutions on this scale, with this kind of structure and national authority, doing things other than defence. Keeping the utilities going, and keeping Britain green and pleasant can provide worthwhile jobs for at least the next 1000 years.

    So basically I’d say our number one need is to regain the relentless obsession with achieving full employment. We’re the only party without the ideological restraints to do it.

  24. Marcus A. Roberts

    RT @leftfootfwd: What should Labour's leadership contest be about? http://bit.ly/ccUS4i

  25. John Ruddy

    What should Labour's leadership contest be about? | Left Foot Forward http://ow.ly/17nJTM

  26. Ben Cooper

    RT @leftfootfwd: Tell us which questions you want Labour's leadership candidates to discuss http://bit.ly/cbUQqJ

  27. Vincenzo Rampulla

    RT @dominiccampbell: RT @leftfootfwd: Tell us which questions you want Labour's leadership candidates to discuss http://bit.ly/cbUQqJ

  28. Nolan John

    RT @leftfootfwd: Tell us which questions you want Labour's leadership candidates to discuss http://bit.ly/cbUQqJ

  29. Dominic Campbell

    RT @leftfootfwd: Tell us which questions you want Labour's leadership candidates to discuss http://bit.ly/cbUQqJ

  30. House Of Twits

    RT @leftfootfwd Tell us which questions you want Labour's leadership candidates to discuss http://bit.ly/cbUQqJ

  31. Nishma

    There are various aspects that the Labour MPs will have to discuss, the most important being the economy. It is clear now that the current economic situation has only bred instability; thus, how will each leader approach tackling the current problems directly relating to national investments to improve self-sustainability? How will they improve the conditions of the poorest? How will they tackle tax evaders? How will they reduce the increasing divide between the rich and the poor?

  32. Claire Spencer

    I’d really like to see each of the candidates set out how they think society can move towards becoming more cohesive. This ties into:
    *Immigration: what we expect from migrants, our current process of integration (from citizenship to housing, training and how we can ensure that this doesn’t slide), etc. Also, what Jon Cruddas, and now Ed Miliband have both made reference to – it is a class issue, and that will have to inform how it is managed.
    *Identity: Getting to the root of why we aren’t more overjoyed to be European/global citizens, and how we can make our involvement in Europe more open and democratic, and create a stronger link with people’s lives.
    *Class: How do we make sure that class doesn’t stagnate? What measures allow people from all classes to have access to social and cultural capital, apart from school and university?

  33. Will Straw

    @ewancwatt I'm sitting on the fence http://bit.ly/cbUQqJ

  34. Look Left – The Week in Fast Forward | Left Foot Forward

    […] the period until nominations close, and extended the legth of the contest itself. On Saturday, Left Foot Forward had called for precisely this course of action. Jon Cruddas was among MPs expressing their concern […]

  35. Rav Casley Gera

    How about: under the Thatcher/Major govt the median income in Britain increased 1.6% a year; under New Labour, 1.9%. How can Labour do better?

  36. Will Straw

    What should Labour's leadership election be about. Share your thoughts http://bit.ly/cbUQqJ

  37. Kate B

    RT @wdjstraw: What shd Labour's leadership election b about http://bit.ly/cbUQqJ >well, not about the war. D Miliband says we're over that.

  38. Amanda Ramsay

    RT @wdjstraw: What should Labour's leadership election be about. Share your thoughts http://bit.ly/cbUQqJ

  39. Neil Ritchie

    I’d like to see a committment from all candidates to protecting the low – mid income groups, but giving them the opportunity to aspire and achieve. We’re aware that no one wants to depend of welfare, but where are the opportunities to get out of that.

    I also think we should refrain from petty attacks on the backgrounds of David Cameron & Nick Clegg. Labour should be seen to be reaching out to all.

  40. Mags W

    RT @wdjstraw: What should Labour's leadership election be about. Share your thoughts http://bit.ly/cbUQqJ

  41. Mags

    1. Some the issues below address the future economy.

    2. Climate/Environment – Go nuclear. Go electric. Go green. Instead of spending money & using time to develop technology on what might and might not work – go for what we know works. France seems to manage… By all means encourage other green technology but not at the cost of being held to ransom by gas and oil exporters. We are an island and we need to be as self-sufficient as we can in energy and technology. More use should be made of vertical tidal power not wave energy or in line turbines. The tide is natural – lots of power – when it rises it provides free energy as it floats – use that to power a turbine. Marine friendly too.

    Coastal erosion, changes in weather patterns, the effects of flooding, the price of energy, the efficiency of our homes are all going to have a fundamental effect on the way we live our lives over the next 25 years. Invest in caring for communities – employment for people there – for graduates AND C2s.

    Communications and business links need improving to prevent unnecessary costs, pollution and inefficiency in the way we work and travel. It is perfectly possible to conduct a business meeting over the internet using video-conferencing and file-sharing technology even now and development of universal fast broadband will bring this facility within the reach of everyone in business.

    On the environment greater use needs to be made of improved farming technologies such as hydroponics (growing food without soil – plants grow in water with nutrients feeding in). It would greatly reduce the need for expensive and often dangerous fertilisers and of course weed and insect killers which have devastated the productivity of much of our farmland. Another linked absurdity is the scandal of waste of energy (fuel, refrigeration, heating) involved in transporting foods throughout the year often over tens of thousands of miles – foods that we could grow here with imagination and technology. Again, this would help us become more self-sufficient as a nation and provide jobs.
    The key words to all this are new technology, efficiency and self-sufficiency.

    3. We take the lead on AV and make proposals that the coalition government would find difficult to accept in view of Nick & Dave having to sing from the same hymn sheet now ! Goodness knows why we didn’t reform the House of Lords in our first term… we had the biggest mandate in history to do what we had promised in our manifesto…. one example of why perhaps the electorate didn’t vote our way. We made promises that we didn’t fulfil.

    4.People want to feel that the Government is looking after them. We weren’t socialist enough. What relevance did Government give to ordinary lives ? Big business and banks ruled ! They still do. We need to make the banks accountable to their customers – not the other way round. They are there to serve us – when did the rules change ? And ordinary banking should be split from investment banking so our money is not at risk! They are just huge profit-making institutions which risk too much and give little in return. They call the tune and that needs to be changed.
    Maybe we should start a People’s Bank. The Government could do banking – poss via the Post Office or a subsidiary of Royal Mail which the country still owns… When we do something good we should fly the flag from the rooftops (others might be doing that shortly!)

    Paid lobbying -v- ordinary people – who wins the ear of those who make decisions ?

    Crime – the victim is often treated more like the perpetrator. Some of the recent cases where police have ignored residents’ complaints prove that.
    Too many people on benefit.

    Immigration – people must contribute to our nation – similar to the Australian system.

    Pride and respect has been lost in many areas and needs to be restored. That starts at the top – trusting politicians!

    The awards system should be more transparent – regional panels of people who again give their time to making such decisions and then feed recommendations to the newly elected second chamber which would be more representative.

    Tax evasion should be addressed as well as benefit cheating.

    A Tory press didn’t help !!

    5. The party ! Where do I start ? Too out of date in it’s local organisation. More internet participation such as this – great !
    Regional or city meetings – large events – speakers, debates and workshops.
    Be professional. Maybe UNI labour clubs could help organise ?
    Countrywide labour party branch meetings I gather are not all the same.

    The Obama campaign was fantastic. I was an ‘overseas friend’ and I still receive emails and updates probably twice-weekly. During the campaign I knew where every meeting/husting was being held and I felt that I could just register and go. And since elected there might have been times when I’ve been better informed about what was happening within the US Government than my own British Government…
    There was a genuine desire to reach out to people… there was talk of ‘hope’. There was so much positivity.

    Last of all people need to feel worthy not worthless.

  42. The Election Blog

    RT @wdjstraw: What should Labour's leadership election be about. Share your thoughts http://bit.ly/cbUQqJ

  43. It's "answer time" for the candidates | Left Foot Forward

    […] weeks ago, we set out some ideas for the questions that the leadership contest should address and asked for readers to […]

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