Let’s hope the candidates out-perform the campaigns

So far, the leadership campaigns have been pretty shambolic. There is no sense that any of the contenders have a pre-assembled team which has kicked into operation.  Rather, they all seem disorientated by the lack not only of the civil service support to which they’re accustomed, but even of what remains of the Labour apparatus which served them as best it could during the election.
The nearest to organised is Balls.  In part this is just because his core team – in keeping with his niche in the party – boasts better organisers.  People like Tom Watson, Ian Austin, Michael Dugher and John Spellar may not exactly have ‘rainbow coalition’ or ‘next Labour’ printed on their t-shirts, but they are well acquainted with the mechanics both of internal elections and of external spin.
Balls is also the one who has done the most work over the last five years.  He’s the only one who’s been assiduously traipsing round the Friday night rubber chicken circuit of local Labour parties since 2005.  He has made the most effort to court the unions, and starts ahead in that section of the electoral college.  And he has worked harder than David Miliband, though perhaps not than Ed, at convincing his fellow Labour MPs to like him.
David is the favourite for a reason.  On the face of it, he is the best candidate.  But he has not had a good campaign so far.  Sensitive to the perception that he ‘bottled’ several chances to unseat and replace Gordon Brown as PM, he was determined not to appear to dither this time.  Which led to the comical first launch of his campaign: standing limply outside St Stephen’s entrance to the House of Commons flanked by a rag-bag assortment of obscure MPs, needing only Tony Marlow in a stripey boating blazer to complete the allusion to John Redwood’s hilarious 1995 leadership bid.
His second launch, yesterday, was better.  Some sage Blairites were impressed.  “Next Labour”, though, is not a name that will still be on the notepaper in 15 years time.  Behind the scenes of the campaign will be people like Jonathan Kestenbaum of NESTA raising money, DJ Collins of Google advising on the “messaging” and James Purnell, if we’re not mistaken, playing an important political role.
An early D. Miliband endorser was Alan Johnson, the man who everybody knows would have made the best leader.  David should learn from Johnson’s 2007 deputy-leadership campaign: he was by far the strongest candidate, ran by far the worst campaign, and lost.
Ed Miliband is yet to show much.  A Fabian conference was a strange place to launch, though that was probably an accident of circumstance.  Some beltway spin connoisseurs are reporting surprisingly aggressive briefing.  (This is code for saying mean things about the opposition).  His chief spinner, Polly Billington, takes no prisoners, giving such reports some credibility.  It’s hard to imagine it getting nasty between the brothers, but stranger things have happened.  Let’s hope not.
Burnham has no discernible campaign apparatus yet, but is running.
Parliamentary endorsers are unusually few.  The PLP is waiting till it’s more obvious who’s going to win before bravely swinging in behind him.

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