As the leadership candidates dust down their swimwear, and head to their cottage/caravan for some well deserved down time – our daily “In the race” feature will also be taking a two week break. No doubt there will still be much work still taking place behind the scenes, as the campaigns themselves won’t be taking time off, and we’ll still be bringing you the best of the leadership race while this daily staple is on a brief hiatus.
How has the leadership campaign gone so far then, both for the party, and the candidates?
For the party, it’s a mixed bag. On one hand we’ve seen that there are still plenty of ideas in Labour, that there’s still a great deal of campaigning energy still untapped – and we should have a strong opposition frontbench after the leadership campaign draws to a close, whoever the leader is. With our party currently leaderless (although Harriet Harman has done a sterling, but quiet, job as party leader), it’s remarkable that we’re within spitting distance of the Tories in the polls. Overhauling them once we have a leader in place is a real possibility.
However, as long as the campaign rumbles along, it’s difficult for the party as a whole to launch any real sustained attacks on the government. There have been bright spots, with Ed Balls’ forensic decimation of Michael Gove’s reputation a real highlight, but as long as everything is refracted through the prism of the leadership race it’s impossible for the party itself to find its voice. Campaigns which look good on the surface, like the snappy “Britain’s Lost Jobs”, have failed to ignite, fizzling out before they’ve even begun.
There’s a fighting, campaigning opposition waiting to get out. It’s trapped till the 25th September though, and regardless of the result that day we need to turn our energies outwards, immediately.
And the candidates? Well each campaign has been different, and has different strengths and weaknesses. Over the next couple of weeks I’ll be taking a look at each one in turn, try to see where they’re coming from and where the campaigns are going next. Keep your eyes open for those.