Je vis de bonne soupe et non de beau language

The main leadership candidates are the sons of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown. (Andy Burnham, it must be admitted, is more like the son of Chris Smith; but at the moment he is struggling to look like a main contender).

It comes as no surprise, in which case, that they are taking great care with their ‘messaging’.

(None has so far come up with very much to say.  But actually having something to say goes beyond ‘messaging’.  It is up there in the spin-wonk stratosphere with ‘strategy’).

David Miliband’s campaign is the best across the board.  And so is his messaging.  Every word is painstakingly crafted, by people – such as his spin doctor Lisa Tremble and Google’s DJ Collins – who are good at crafting words.  Every two or three sentences carries a mellifluent phrase which stops – just – short of being a soundbite.

(We abjure soundbites.  They are cheap.  Cameron is a shameless purveyor thereof.  We still recoil from the hand of history on Tony Blair’s shoulder).

It is easy to tease, but messaging is important and it is to the candidates’ credit – particularly big Miliband – that they are taking it seriously and doing it well.

It would be nice though, if, rather than agonising quite so self-consciously over the message, one of the main contenders actually did something.

Since Parliament resumed, none of them has tabled a single written Parliamentary question.  If any of them has submitted a single freedom of information request to the new government, they have done so with a strange lack of fanfare.

Yet these are the tools of our new craft: opposition.

None of the princelings has seized a media moment.  There have been plenty of opportunities: Laws, flotillagate, the botched Afghanistan threesome, the CGT rebellion, the 55% scandal, the 1922 rebellion, the start of the cuts, the leak of the Queen’s speech, and so on.

The would-be leaders have been responding here and there, but without vim or alacrity.  Which of them has really gripped an issue and dominated the news with it?

What were they doing over the bank holiday weekend?  Ed Miliband did a turn at the Hay Festival, but that doesn’t tell us much because it’s the kind of thing Ed Miliband would be doing on a bank holiday weekend even if he didn’t want to be leader of the Labour party.

None of the rest were in much evidence at all.  They appear to have taken the weekend off.  Which is not a choice you have in opposition.  In opposition, you fill the slots the government can’t be bothered with.

Late nights, early mornings and bank holiday weekends are where Labour now fits into the media ecosystem.  The days of waiting to pronounce while the Lobby pack waits breathless are gone.  The new challenge is getting anyone to take any notice of anything we say.

He will not thank us for pointing it out, but Tom Watson has tabled nearly 200 Parliamentary questions in the past fortnight.  He is getting stuck in to the government.

Messrs Miliband, Balls and Burnham – because they are busy with their leadership campaigns – are not.

Our challenge to those seeking Labour’s top job is this: you say you want to lead – why not do so from the front?

You say you want to take the fight to the Tories – why wait to be anointed?

Show us what you’re made of and get on with it.

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