Three mistakes Labour has made in the leadership contest

A dry and stage managed effort by Labour HQ has done little to enhance the reputation of the party


As a member of the Labour Party for almost 15 years, in the event of Jeremy Corbyn winning I will wish him well as he seeks to take on the Conservatives. For all my disagreements with him, and there are numerous, I nevertheless remain of the view that a Labour government is needed to address the devastation that the Conservatives are inflicting on the country.

Many on the left of the party have attacked so-called ‘mainstream’ candidates for selling out on their principles for the pursuit of power. Principles are indeed important. They define us. They send a message to the public about who we are, what we stand for and the story we have to tell. But principles without power mean little.

If Corbyn wins the leadership, he will have done so partly because of the clear vision he has given, but also because of a failure within Labour HQ to conduct the campaign as it should have done.

The first mistake was to run a leadership campaign at the same time as the party sought to understand why we did so badly at the General Election. Harriet Harman’s decision to appoint Margaret Beckett to chair an inquiry into what went wrong was a good idea.

Why then, did the party not decide to let this work take place first, properly considering the results at the party conference before starting the firing gun on the leadership election?

It would also have been invaluable for the party to properly digest Jon Cruddas’ work, which found that we lost the election in large part because voters believed we were anti-austerity. Sadly, such serious work from an MP respected across the party has been lost.

By starting a leadership contest without first understanding why we lost was akin to putting the cart before the horse.

The second mistake was to allow a near-open invitation for all and sundry to join the party as supporters throughout the campaign. I’ve been in the party for many years and it is quite frankly absurd that the campaign has, and I use this word carefully, been hijacked by what I suspect is a new influx of ‘supporters’ with an agenda to destroy the party.

One wonders just how many of the new supporters and members will actually be heard making the case for the Labour Party once Corbynmania has died down.

Labour’s former first minister in Scotland Jack (now Lord) McConnell is right to have argued that a deadline should have been set for members to join the party to vote in the contest. This should have coincided with the deadline for leadership contenders to be nominated by the parliamentary Labour Party. Lord McConnell has dubbed the current situation ‘ridiculous’, and I concur.

And finally, the third mistake has been the woeful organisation of the debates up and down the country.

When the leadership campaign began it was billed as an opportunity to reach out to and engage with the public.

What we’ve had instead is a series of old school set piece speeches and leadership hustings which, I feel, have been irrelevant. When candidates each get 30 seconds to answer questions on topics as big as the economy and Trident, then you know there is something wrong.

I wanted to see our candidates cross-examining each other, debating with party members and the public, understanding what went wrong in May and articulating clear visions for the future of the party. What we have had instead has been a dry and stage managed effort by Labour HQ which has done little to enhance the reputation of the party.

The party now stands on the abyss and faces the prospect of being irrelevant. Sure, with Corbyn in power we can all continue to complain from the sidelines, but what will this achieve?

Will it take a single child out of poverty?  Will it protect the most vulnerable in our society? Will it save the NHS? Will it improve the life chances of everyone in this country? Will it create the jobs and provide the education people need? Will it make our communities safer?

And will it give people hope that there is a genuine and serious alternative government in the waiting? The answer to all these questions is a resounding no.

It’s time to get serious. We are electing a leader of a party that should aspire to be a government in waiting, not a leader of some increasingly fringe movement. It’s worth repeating: principles without power mean nothing.

Ed Jacobs is a contributing editor at Left Foot Forward. Follow him on Twitter

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71 Responses to “Three mistakes Labour has made in the leadership contest”

  1. David Barlow

    Any time. I would be able to give you a reading list, if you wish.

  2. madasafish

    I am confident Labour – if elected – would run a Government as efficiently as they organise a Leadership contest.
    I am also confident that voters will, on the whole , will have the same opinion.

  3. Darren Cahil

    ‘One wonders just how many of the new supporters and members will actually be heard making the case for the Labour Party once Corbynmania has died down’.

    Well, those who got purged are hardly going to do so are they? Although I do agree with Ed Jacobs that the leadership contest should have been open to only trade unionists affiliated to Labour and paying the political levy and Labour party members, to go on a paranoid purge after inviting people to get involved in the leadership contest was a fantastic own goal. The Labour party has become depressingly tactically inept. Its just fallen into one Tory trap after another.

  4. WhiteVanMan

    Leaving Europe would control immigration, which originally was labour policy, controlling immigration isn’t left right wing, Blair and Tories like cheap EU labour, rather than paying British workers a decent wage

  5. WhiteVanMan

    It was perceived as being left wing

  6. WhiteVanMan

    Scotland is the exception, and labour moved to the right?, Ed was too the right of Blair?

  7. WhiteVanMan

    Slightly less austerity than the Tories is still moving to the left, Alastair Darling had same economic plans as Osborne, Ed ,was too the left of that

  8. WhiteVanMan

    Maybe the centre ground has swung to the right, making the centre ground the new left.

  9. WhiteVanMan

    Paul’s a nice like,but his predictions aren’t normally accurate

  10. WhiteVanMan

    Maybe the Labour Party could cease to exist 55 years from now if it follows the corbyn path

  11. WhiteVanMan

    And half the Labour Party members who are voting for them, how about half the current people who vote labour, it could happen if corbyn wins

  12. WhiteVanMan

    Because the neo liberal right would swing to be hard right, as Thatcher did when she kept on winning due to labour swinging to the left,becoming un electable

  13. Faerieson

    My God, the idea that whole swathes of the population should re-engage in politics that no longer really represents them because the alternative is even worse, makes ‘our democracy’ seem desperate indeed.

    Another point that does not appear to be enticing the disenchanted out is that they have fairly recently witnessed three terms of ‘the alternative,’ in Blair. He never paused, from feathering his own bloody nest, to consider the wider population. Indeed, it was under his auspices that this neoliberal monster first began to change up through the gears. Cooper, Bunham and Kendal were all conspicuously silent during this time. Even ‘our media’ increasingly fails to provide any real political balance.

    A ‘failure of true democracy,’ whereby we have to consult wealthy celebrities or corporate spokespeople before we can vote, or a real alternative that might have to fight against this corruption? I know which one appears more appealing to me, and it would seem that growing numbers of the electorate feel likewise.

  14. gedw23

    Not by me, Or a few millions in Scotland. And you only think that because of your own POV. in truth, whatever negative interpretation, whether weak, too right wing, too left wing, ideological or unprincipled, could be applied to them was. this stemmed from a general lack of identity and purpose that allowed other people’s definitions to take hold.

  15. WhiteVanMan

    A few. Million in Scotland?
    ,half a million people switched form Labour to SNp,and most would have switched due to the better together campaign,rather than them saying ,Ed militand, he’s more right wing than Gordon Brown

    Yes lack of identity mean the public didn’t know what lobur stood for that’s why poll after poll suggested (rightly or wrongly) the public perceived labour as too left wing for them

  16. gedw23

    All you are is the mirror image of the people you look down on who now support Corbyn, and you’re equally deluded.. If you genuinely want to understand Labour’s long term decline in all its heartlands, it’s lack of connection with the wider public and the almost universal negative appeal it had to people of all political views, you need to make it more than an exercise in confirming what you already think.

  17. WhiteVanMan

    Long term decline, who increased those labour votes form the 1983 election in the first place,Kinnock and Blair, and the decline he been going down since the 50’s and it’s not the hearight lands that decide the vote, labour has always needed England and Wales to win elections,plus voter turnouts are down in the 50’s through to 1992 it was averaging 78% turnouts, the last 4 elections have been between 59% to 66%’ ,so it’s not only labour a vote going down via along elections,it’s everyone’s vote going down,not even including the rise of Ukip,parties. Only need 10-11 million votes to win now,

    20-40 years ago,it’s was 13.6 million

  18. gedw23

    Fuck me- do you even know what you’re on about?
    Because I don’t have a clue what that mangle of words and all important numbers you read somewhere is supposed to mean.
    All it tells me is that you’ve no interest in any understanding beyond confirming what you thought to start with

  19. anosrep

    Three mistakes Labour has made in the leadership contest:

    1. Andy Burnham
    2. Yvette Cooper
    3. Liz Kendall

  20. Stephen Hardman

    Dear Ed,
    Is this really a constructive analysis OR a piece of opinion? I.e. YOURS!

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