Lisa Nandy has written to Jennie Formby and members of Labour’s national executive committee (NEC) to call for a change in the format of the leadership hustings.
The five candidates met in Liverpool on Saturday for the first of 12 leadership debates arranged for members to hear from the prospective leaders directly.
The Wigan MP wrote that given the scale of the defeat at the general election, the solution “warrants more than 40 seconds” allocated for responses in the debate.
She said that the events needed to “ignite a passionate debate in our country” and that this is not possible when limited to “40-second soundbites”.
Nandy went on to write: “Candidates must be subjected to the same scrutiny that the voters will put us under during a future election and members must be given a full chance to debate everything that has happened.”
She added that “to achieve this candidates must be able to respond to what each other has said”. Others also criticised the debate for not permitting interaction between candidates.
Leadership hopeful Jess Phillips also complained about the format, saying she was “awful” because she was “trying to hit a million different lines and messages in 40 seconds”.
The next hustings is due to take place on January 25th in Leeds. Other locations for the debates include Glasgow, Cardiff and Bedford before a final event in Brighton.
Below is the full text of the letter sent by Nandy to members of the NEC.
Firstly can I say thank you to all the national and regional staff who were involved in making yesterday’s hustings run so smoothly. It is testament to the dedication and professionalism that after a long General Election campaign they are still able to deliver events like yesterday.
As the first hustings showed, both the candidates and the audience treated each other with the respect that our party has always been known for. There is a clear desire for a full and frank discussion, not just on what led to our worst electoral defeat for over 70 years, but what we as candidates can offer our party and country which will enable us to form the next government.
Like all of the candidates I spent time after the hustings talking to those members who attended. And while many of their questions centred on the different policy positions of the different candidates, there was one consistent comment made to me which was on the format of yesterday’s hustings and the limit of 40 seconds to respond to a question and the lack of an opening statement from candidates.
I am firmly of the view that the scale of our defeat in December, the solutions that each of the candidates want to put forward warrants more than 40 seconds. Given the views of members in the room and responses online, there is clearly a strong appetite to get more detail from those who wish to lead our party and run our country.
I would welcome greater engagement and more scrutiny from party members in the audience in the room and those viewing online for future hustings, which I believe can be achieved through allocating a longer time to answer questions and for the questioner or other members online to question us further.
This leadership election is the most important one we have had for generations, possibly in our history. All the candidates need to show how they can politically and organisationally deliver a Labour victory. All the candidates must be subjected to the same scrutiny that the voters will put us under during a future election and members must be given a full chance to debate everything that has happened and our way forward as a party.
To achieve this candidates must be able to respond to what each other has said. We need these hustings to ignite a passionate debate in our party and across the country, and this cannot be achieved by proscribing answers to 40 second sound bites and hermetically sealing the candidates from direct conversations between ourselves.
I am sure that the other candidates will agree with the principle of what I am saying. I have no doubt we can all agree on a different format to these hustings; one which will be a real showcase of the different policies we believe in, providing our members with a real insight into their next leader and Prime Minister.