James Macintyre is less impressed than most by a long leadership election

The decision by Labour’s NEC to “go long” and opt for a leadership contest that concludes at the party’s annual conference in September, is being almost universally celebrated. Harriet Harman, the acting leader, says it will provide ample “time for debate”, and most Labour supporters on Twitter and the blogs agree.

But from the point of view of the party’s reputation in the country, is it really right to assume that a long “debate” will be appreciated? The public will not forgive months of introspection, especially if it is — despite David Miliband’s challenge to candidates to join him in banning anonymous briefings –riddled with the sort of dark whispers reminiscent of the Blair-Brown years, from which many in Cabinet are so desperate to break free.

Perhaps more importantly, there is urgent work to be done in opposing what is beneath the surface a fragile coalition. There are perhaps thousands of Liberal Democrat voters angry at their party for crowning David Cameron as prime minister, who could be won over to Labour, the lasting vehicle for progress in the UK. The sooner Labour resolves the leadership question, the sooner it will be fit to emerge from the indulgences of opposition and begin the hard work of government again. From Labour’s point of view, there is no time to waste.

It is no use crying over the NEC decision. But the pressure will be on all candidates, including those who are playing what already feels like an agonizing “long game”, to keep the fight clean, and unite as soon as it is over.

James Macintyre is political correspondent of the New Statesman.

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3 Responses to “James Macintyre is less impressed than most by a long leadership election”

  1. Paul Pinfield says:

    James Macintyre is wrong on most things, so why should we listen to him on the leadership?

  2. Nick Warren says:


  3. Quietzapple says:

    The longer than usual Leadership Election will permit more time to take the debates out into the country, for those engaged to meet more of the public at hustings with more former liberals etc.

    Opposition to the Cameron’s anti-democratic grab will be out of parliament as well as in it.

    Calls for building a mass party – with street captains on every road? – rarely seem credible. But some sort of greater participation may well be brought about via this important campaign. We have never had the like before, and the last serious leadership campaigns were in 1994, which was a walkover.

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