The unifying theme of all the leadership campaigns remains as we reported it last week: shambles.
Front runner David Miliband’s organisation is the nearest to being slick. But it is not very near.
At the whizzy end of things, he is the only one with a broadcast text message system, which alerts targeted Labour MPs to forthcoming Miliband encounter opportunities. It tells them where he will be, when, and with what voter segment (Northerners, trades unionists, women etc).
This is a canny Pavlovian ruse by Team David: MPs are already accustomed to receive hourly instructions – from the whips – by this means. The whips’ messages show up as sent by ‘Rapide’. The young dauphin’s come through from ‘D_M’. You cannot reply.
The subliminal message – of an unstoppable establishment candidate propelled by the weight of the machine – runs through his campaign.
The older Miliband’s Parliamentary footsoldiers, as well as being the most numerous, are also the most shinily zealous. They come the closest to not taking no for an answer from those who are yet to decide. Some such have been a little irritated. But these sins of the scullions do not reflect a flaw of the master – who is too aloof to be pushy – so he is generally forgiven.
Team David was also the first to move into its new campaign office. Candidates are not allowed to use their Parliamentary offices for leadership contests, as they are party political. So they have had to source short term, affordable, reasonably dignified Westminster office space at short notice. (To have made plans in advance would have been either anticipating defeat or plotting sedition, neither of which is allowed. Michael Portillo once got into lots of trouble for getting his phone lines installed too early.)
In keeping with the establishment theme, David Miliband has settled into “a small office in Smith Square”, where the Conservative Party had its HQ for many years.
Ed Miliband, meanwhile, has made his temporary home next to Labour’s national HQ, just up the road from Westminster Abbey, on Victoria Street. The nerve centre of Project Ed is currently kitted out with “three phones and a laptop that’s not plugged in”. It is thought that this will improve. Nor has it prevented Project Ed from producing by far the best website of the six.
(The weirdest website, we are bound to point out, is Andy Burnham’s. The hexagon, the colour, the picture – it’s all pretty baffling. Campaign sources lead us to expect a second generation.)
The younger Miliband is the poster boy of the Twitterocracy. He is not a true Twitter native himself. Balls actually engaged more and earlier. But the Twitterati have taken Ed M to their hearts, and he is winning that war. (David tweets exclusively by text, which, to Tweeters, tells its own story).
Team Balls hasn’t quite finalised its accommodation yet, but is expecting to move into something suitable in Victoria next week. Their website is under construction.
Burnham hasn’t quite got the office sorted either. But when he does, he will be the only one of the leading quartet – all of whom have Northern constituencies – to run his leadership campaign from the North. This is far from accidental. Much will turn on how much traction Burnham’s working class Northern credentials can generate.
John McDonnell’s campaign has so far included getting the leaders of smaller unions like the bakers’ and small unaffiliated unions like the Fire Brigades’ Union to write to Labour MPs urging them to support him. As well as (rather enterprisingly) writing himself to the other leadership candidates asking for any spare nominations they may have.
Diane Abbott has activist supporters writing to Labour MPs to whom they have no connection asking them to nominate her. She claims that such outpourings are entirely spontaneous, rather than organised. Either way would reflect well on her. But both she and John McDonnell seem short of momentum so far.