What must the new leader do to win, asks guest editor Tom Watson

“To lead a political party you must first establish whether the party wishes to be lead.”

These are the alleged words of Neil Kinnock in the bad old days of the 1980s. The reassuring message to the thousands of Labour members who hold our great party together is that the parliamentary Labour party wishes to be lead.  This has not been the case after previous election defeats. The party faced extinction in the years after 1979. In 2010 our MPs, the new intake in particular, are murderous in their desire to win.

For every day that the fragmented group of charismatic individualists running the country continue to stumble from one sporadic decision to the next, the more the lust for victory grows amongst the best intake of MPs I’ve known in my lifetime.

Whoever wins the leadership election will inherit a parliamentary party with a killer instinct. They are backed up by a party on the ground that is newly rejuvenated by the audacity of David Cameron and Nick Clegg.

The challenge for our new leader is to harness the energy, focus the attack, build a new vision that challenges the notion of a “big society” and the spurious new politics of the coalition.

So my question to Uncut readers this week is a simple one: what has the new leader got to do to win? If you think you have the answer to this question, or even a partial solution, then I want to hear from you.

Our former general secretary Peter Watt kicks off the discussion. Peter argues that in failing to elect a leader in July, we are already missing out on the opportunity to characterise the opposition as lacking vision. Worse still, we are allowing them to destroy our legacy by besmirching our economic record. Peter carried a heavier load than he deserved for the Labour party.  It is to his credit that he still cares enough about the party to worry about our future.

Tom Watson is the MP for West Bromwich East, a blogger and guest editor of Labour Uncut.

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2 Responses to “What must the new leader do to win, asks guest editor Tom Watson”

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  2. Tom Miller says:

    I think August would have been an ideal time, personally. Good logistical space, and right in the middle of quiet time for the papers. Also some time to put some stuff together from conference.

    The thing is, like Jim Fitzpatrick’s hand-wringing over the London Mayoral process, we’re basically wasting time discussing it. It’s not a constructive chat, really.

    What I hope is that we will get a leader who wants the PLP to work with unions and the membership, and to open up the party to proper discussion and participative policy making. We also need a leader who is prepared to revolutionise the way we organise. The other two main parties are ahead of us in many aspect of this. In particular I feel that CLPs have lost a lot of the professionalism they may have had in the late 1990s.

    Finally, I want a leader who can abandon the traumas of the 1980s and realise that we’re dealing with different conditions now. Winning again won’t be about pulling rightwards, nor will it be about a radical veer to the left, though I would appreciate a more market-sceptical line and a more liberal approach to both domestic and foreign policy.

    We need to shake off the popular image of being a group of centralist, Stalin-lite supervisors. This covers a whole bunch of ground, from terrorism laws and their misapplication, through gay marriage, to the Digital Economy bill. It also covers public services, where we need to make a good case for mutualism, localism and co-production, get back to fighting the Tories on the ground they have been allowed to nick from us.

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