Everybody says they want this Labour leadership contest to be a broad one; to be one that properly reflects the diversity of our great movement and broad church. David Miliband tweeted “more the merrier“, Ed Miliband says he wants the “broadest possible choice“, Ed Balls says he wants “a good choice of candidates” where “everyone” can “promote ideas and put their case”. I read that Alistair Darling praises the fact there is a broad range of candidates. John McDonnell and Diane Abbott are saying much the same thing. Such unity is rare and beautiful!
But, unfortunately, our current system, with its nomination hurdle of 12.5% means that it is unlikley that all six candidates will progress from here, let alone allow any further candidates to put themselves forward. This is especially the case if any of the front-runners go far beyond the required 33 nominations, as they are perfectly entitled to do. Of course, Milibands might be persuaded to “redistribute” their supporters in favour of the broad contest everyone wants – that can be done. But it might be a more straight-forward approach, and one that would be better understood in the country and the party, if we merely decided to waive the 12.5% nomination threshold in favour of something more generally attainable, such as 5%.
Tom Harris MP tweeted about this yesterday, asking who was with him. I re-tweeted and was not alone in doing so.
There is a simplicity in such a move. And there appears to be a precedent for making a temporary rule change for the contest. After all, the rule is that people must have been members for six months before they can vote in a leadership or deputy leadership election. The NEC rightly waived this rule for this contest and the 2007 one. As such, there should be no difficulty in making a similar temporary decision about this contest. The party can consider whether a more permanent rule change is necessary or desirable in its own leisure at a later date. Today we don’t need to debate the general principle, merely what will work for this contest.
So who’s in? Let’s give the party members the choice they really want. Let’s have the broad range of candidates that all the candidates themselves say they want. Let’s show the country the broad range of talent we have in the Labour Party, and show the country how democratic, mature and comradely we can be. This is an enormously important contest: let’s make it a good one.