Speculate to generate interest

4th February, 2013 8:40 am

Just because it’s conventional wisdom it doesn’t mean it’s true.

Conventional political wisdom tells us that leadership speculation is bad for a party, undermines the current leader and gives an impression of division which the electorate hates. Journalists love it but we shouldn’t play their game.

John Rentoul of the Independent claims he and his pals couldn’t think of an alternative leader anyway which may have come as a relief to Ed Miliband and his team. But I’m not sure that it should.

Speculation in the Sunday papers about challenges to David Cameron’s leadership damages the Tory party only because the alternatives are so improbable. A black millionaire nobody has heard of, a maverick Mayor of London who’s not even in parliament, and that’s about it.

If you look across the ranks of the Tories in the Cabinet nobody stands out as a potential leader with the possible exception of the Home Secretary, Theresa May, who shows few signs of exciting the voters very much.

Labour’s front bench is a completely different story. I can count at least eight MPs, not including Ed and Harriet, who could step up into a leadership position tomorrow with a realistic chance of winning the next election. If you include David Miliband, “on the front line but not the front bench” in his own words, that is an array of talent that outshines the Cabinet on any day of the week.

To point that out is not to undermine Ed in any way. He is staying as leader and that’s an end to it. But it is to enhance Labour’s standing overall. A bit of speculation about who among them might one day take over is not a bad way of reminding voters just how strong the team is.

And Labour does need to get itself talked about a bit more in the proverbial Dog and Duck. As the excellent LabourList meeting on One Nation that I attended at the Commons last month showed, there is a lot of creative thinking going on in the party. Eventually under the guidance of Jon Cruddas it will make it into a powerful party programme. But right now it’s not cutting through with the wider public at all.

With just two years to go to the election we need to start exciting a bit of interest. Ed may have decided against brainstorming the country with a series of challenging speeches as Tony Blair did between 1995 and ‘97, but there needs to be a bit of a buzz about Labour pretty soon.

So how about this for starters? One day we might face our own Hillary/Obama moment. Two contenders for the leadership, one a hard-working, committed and talent woman (Yvette), another a younger, less experienced but exciting black man (Chuka). Will the outcome be the same as in the US? Every elected leader of the Labour Party has been a white man. Next time around will it be time for a change?

Painful though it was, that primary election strengthened the Democrats and put them in a position to dominate presidential politics for a generation. Separately and together they inspired and reinvigorated the centre-left. Here in Britain it cannot and should not be left to one man to do that, so why not ‘speculate to generate’ – a little interest, that is.

Lance Price is a Former Labour party Director of Communications and author of ‘Where Power Lies’ (Simon and Schuster)

  • AlanGiles

    ” I can count at least eight MPs, not including Ed and Harriet, who could step up into a leadership position tomorrow”

    Don’t be a tease, Lance, please tell us the names of this high-octane octet!

  • Amber_Star

    Lance Price is a Former Labour party Director of Communications and author of ‘Where Power Lies’

    Where does the power lie in Eastleigh now? C’mon Mark, give us the news: Are Labour going to throw everything at this by-election or do we think it is not winnable?

    • AlanGiles

      It will be a very interesting by-election. According to Norman Smith, the BBC political correspondent, UKIP have already said they will contest the seat, and there is a strong possibility Nigel Farage might take on the job himself. If he did, the Conservative vote would be split quite badly – especially with their one “big name”.

      The Eastleigh council leader was also on The World At One saying that the Conservatives haven’t won a seat on the council in a decade.

      I guess the LibDems will have to choose very carefully who they put up – I wonder if Susan Kramer might be a possibility?. I’m not sure what she is up to these days.

      Given all this, it is just possible that Labour might win, but whoever does, there is only a 4000 seat majority in Eastleigh , so whoever gets it, it is going to be a tightly run thing.

      • Amber_Star

        Hi Alan, I agree that it is a long-shot but it could be worth the effort; it would be a stunning result, were Labour able to win this by-election.

Latest

  • Comment We have the money to make Labour a movement – we can’t lose this moment

    We have the money to make Labour a movement – we can’t lose this moment

    Jessie J may have tried to argue it’s not about the money, money, money, but anyone facing a well-funded opposition at an election knows all too well the difference it makes. One aspect of the leadership contest yet to be fully discussed is the cash that it has generated for Labour. The combination of the volume of people paying the supporters rate, the increase in membership and the levy paid by leadership candidates means a serious amount of money will […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Featured Leadership matters

    Leadership matters

    This week has really shown up the petty squabbling in the Labour leadership contest for what it is – inward looking and small. Because when it matters, the Labour Party has united around the issue of giving much needed asylum to refugees. Our differences may seem big – and sometimes they are . They do matter. But the gulf of difference between the way the whole of the Labour Party has reacted to what is needed and the nasty, small […]

    Read more →
  • News Unite make clear they do not support de-selecting MPs

    Unite make clear they do not support de-selecting MPs

    This evening Channel 4 have run a story stating that a Unite member is claiming that the “far-left” is preparing to try and de-select Labour MPs if Jeremy Corbyn wins. Unite have stressed that this is not their policy, while leadership contender Corbyn does not have any part in this. The unnamed Unite member is reported to have named a number of MPs he would wish to de-select. However, this is in no way supported by Unite and the union […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Featured Will Chuka Umunna be the next Shadow Chancellor?

    Will Chuka Umunna be the next Shadow Chancellor?

    From being touted as leader of the resistance against Jeremy Corbyn, Chuka Umunna is now being tipped as being the left winger’s number two. With the betting markets still convinced that victory for Jeremy Corbyn is assured, Umunna’s odds for becoming the next Shadow Chancellor tumbled this morning. He is now second favourite for the role, just behind Andy Burnham, at 5/1. Umunna appears to have publicly softened his position on leadership frontrunner Corbyn. It is no great secret that Campaign Group […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Dissolution Dishonour: it’s time to abolish the House of Lords

    Dissolution Dishonour: it’s time to abolish the House of Lords

    The Prime Minister’s behaviour since his unexpected election victory shames our democracy. His dodgy dissolution honours list is only the latest and most egregious example of his contempt for all constitutional and political propriety. As always his actions are extremely partisan in the Tory party cause. His utter failure to ensure that the electoral register contains the up to seven million missing voters who are far less likely to be Tories, his decision to cut the number of seats in […]

    Read more →
Share with your friends










Submit