The media cynics are wrong. This leadership contest is energising the party

by Brian Back

Many commentators in the media have questioned the wisdom of holding a leadership contest so soon after the election defeat, claiming there is no point having a leadership contest, without first undergoing a thorough analysis of the reasons for the defeat.

Some commentators have gone even further; claiming that not only is there no point in the leadership contest, there is no point in the Labour party, as the election result showed that Labour has lost its way; lost its purpose, its identity, its core supporters and its relevance.

The leadership hustings in Cardiff proved all those commentators wrong.

Whilst the election result was undoubtedly a huge blow, the hustings showed that Winston Churchill’s advice; to “never let a good crisis go to waste”, has been taken to heart by the Labour party.

Coming off the back of an election defeat, the leadership contest has forced us to really think about what our party stands for.

The contest has brought a huge response from party members; at meetings, hustings and on social media sites. Members have very clearly shown that they are not lacking in vision or purpose.

Party members know why they joined the Labour party; they are unwavering in their belief and are demanding that their representatives in parliament demonstrate the same levels of conviction and commitment.

This has forced the candidates to clearly define their vision of the Labour party; what it is, and what it should be. Under the fierce scrutiny of dedicated, and at times, angry party members, the candidates have been held to account; forced to prove their values and their worth; to prove their right to vie for the leadership of the party.

Faced with this trial by fire, the candidates have been forced to raise their game, to become the best that they can be.

Some commentators have claimed that the leadership contest is uninspiring; if that was ever true before, it is not the case now. What we saw in Cardiff; was four strong candidates, at the peak of their powers.

The candidates have been forced to carefully consider their positions on a huge range of issues, to the extent which, they each now have something close to a fully formed programme for the party.

The contest has ensured that the candidates are firing on all cylinders, not just intellectually, but also physically and emotionally. The contest has demanded energy, commitment, conviction and passion from the candidates. In short, it has demanded that they become (if they were not already) the kind of politicians that we all want them to be.

At the hustings, the candidates not only showed their passion and commitment; they also all very clearly demonstrated that they share real Labour values. Whilst their programmes may differ, their goal is the same- a fairer and better society.

At a time when disillusionment with career politicians is rife, the contest has shown us that we have a team of talented leaders who share genuine Labour values.

The contest has shown us that we have leaders that we can believe in.

The contest has shown members how strong our team is; shown us that they deserve our support; shown us that the Labour party is very much alive and well.

Not only that; the contest has also shown us that despite the occasional angry clashes of their supporters on social media; the candidates are very much part of the same team- they are all on the same side.

This was clearly shown at the hustings by Liz Kendall and Jeremy Corbyn, who, despite their seemingly (or supposedly) opposing views, were very respectful and friendly to each other; often seen conferring on various questions and points throughout the event.

Not only were the candidates respectful; the audience were too. There was no heckling or booing, only intense concentration, and spontaneous outbursts of applause.

I was proud to be in the audience in Cardiff- proud of the party’s MPs and proud of its members.

The hustings showed us that not only are the candidates very much part of the same team; it showed that that we are all on the same side. Regardless of which candidate we may favour; we all share the same values and goals:

We all want a fairer society.

We all want more equal opportunities.

We all want to take the fight to the Tories.

We all want to win!

So, what became very obvious at the hustings; was that, irrespective of who becomes our next leader, we should unite behind them and give them our full support, because they have all proved that they are strong candidates, who we can all be proud of. They are all ‘true’ Labour MPs, who share our values and goals.

We all know who the real enemy is- the Tories, so it’s time to focus all our energies on fighting them, instead of each other.

We all want the same thing.We’re all on the same side.

That is what the hustings showed us.

So, when considering the questions: what is the point of the leadership contest or of the Labour party itself, the hustings provided all the answers. We can see that the contest has already been a great success:

It has energised MPs and members.

It has rejuvenated, revitalized and renewed the party.

And that is what I saw at the hustings!

I saw a party that was sure of itself,

Sure of its values.

Sure of its purpose.

Sure in its determination to take on the challenge of winning back voters.

Sure in its determination to fight against the unfair and unjust policies of the Tories.

At the hustings, I saw a party whose MPs have real talent, drive and conviction.

I saw a party that has a huge, ever-growing, dedicated and deeply committed membership.

I saw a party that I can be proud of.

At the hustings in Cardiff, I saw a party that can win.

Brian Back is a sociology lecturer and Labour campaigner who blogs at brianbackblog

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10 Responses to “The media cynics are wrong. This leadership contest is energising the party”

  1. Tafia says:

    Is it energised? Or is it the twitchings of a fresh corpse.

  2. Harry says:

    Wow – Cardiff must have been pretty inspiring. Surely the point of having the hustings is to identify the most able candidate, using whatever criteria the elector deems to be the most important.

    What you describe is a rally of triumphant aspiring leaders who are equally happy for one of their competitors to steal the glory and a set of policies that have emerged to deliver an overall consensus.

    Hmm – Does Cardiff have miracle waters? I know the rugby down there is pretty damn special, but to turn that disparate quartet into electable material in 5 years time would be a miracle equivalent to the wedding in Galilee.

  3. John P Reid says:

    The bullying of Liz Kendall, by those putting the Kendall for Tory leader Facebook page, while saying if she comes last, her supporters should leave the party,considering her critics have only been in the party for 6 years, like Andy Newman, Mike Homfray,is destructive
    And if Jeremy wins we’ll be out of power for 20 more years,
    And if Cooper or Burnham win,with in 6 months they’ll be called Blairite turn coats.
    It’s the deputy and mayoral candidate elections,that are seeing decent candidates and their supporters suffering in this

  4. John R says:

    Panglossian – marked by the view that all is for the best in this best of possible worlds : excessively optimistic.

    Example – He took the Panglossian view that the Labour Party would unite behind the winning leadership candidate and beat the Tories in 5 years time despite all evidence to the contrary.

    I feel a bit shitty writing that but I couldn’t think of anything else to start off with.

    Somewhere on this blog I remember reading that what we need is a Tory to submit the various candidates to scrutiny. I shall now try and pose in that role (note -pose).

    “As a Conservative, I feel obliged, in the spirit of charity to offer some advice to the Labour Party as they choose their Leader. While I cannot help but being amused at your disorientation, it is important, however, in the interests of the country, that we have a sensible and coherent opposition to the Natural Party of Government (guess who, Comrades?) to try and keep us on our toes. Sometimes you Socialists come up with policies which we find even our voters like and we can, how can I say, wear them as a wolf dons the garb of a sheep. The instincts of a wolf being necessary for the difficult welfare cuts we need to get Britain back to work.

    Let’s look at the different candidates and, in my opinion, their strengths and weaknesses.

    Andy Burnham. Strengths – Nice, long eyelashes; working class stock. Weaknesses – Mid-Staffs hospital crises; eh, did I mention the Mid-Staffs scandal? Actually, I don’t need to mention anything else as that is what we and our friends in the Press will remind voters at every opportunity – along with sympathetic interviews with relatives (“Why I can never vote Labour again with AB as Leader.”)

    Yvette Cooper. Strengths – Experienced in past Labour Govts; lots of friends in the Press (eg Polly Toynbee); can call on hubby for advice on economic matters. Weaknesses – Experienced in past Labour Govts; lots of friends in the Press (eg Polly Toynbee); can call on hubby for advice on economic matters.

    Liz Kendall. Strengths – Sees the need to target Conservative voters; not dogmatic; willing to admit past Labour economic mistakes. Weaknesses – Some of her non-dogmatic, interesting policies might be so good, we might even be able to use them ourselves. C’mon over Liz, there’ll always be a welcome for you here if you start feeling the heat!

    Jeremy Corbyn. Strengths – Gives Labour members a nice warm feeling inside – reminds them of why they joined Labour in the first place; a Socialist – what you see and hear is what you get, no triangulation here! Weaknesses – Do I really need to list them?

    Apart from that, it would be good if the “Sensible Tendency” (Andy, Yvette and Liz) really do learn to sing from the same Socialist hymn-sheet as their Front Bench.

    I mean, we had the Shadow Chancellor, Chris Leslie outlining why Labour would support us in holding down Public Sector pay while the Sensibles opposed this part of the Budget. I mean to say, give us a bit of a battle here! At least if Mr Cooper had kept his seat , he could have let Yvette know over breakfast what his views on the matter would be so she would not embarrass him.

    As it is, we can say you will say one thing to get backing from your members to get their votes for the Leadership (even you, Liz!) and do something else if you get near the levers of power. It is cynical, untrustworthy and shows the truth of how Labour cannot be trusted with the economy along with being in hock to the Unions.

    I do, of course, leave Jeremy out of this castigation as he really believes what he says about public sector pay. Just as the present Greek Government believed they could magic austerity away and vote for other countries to give them an on-going blank cheque. A Jeremy Corbyn Government – look at Greece.

    So, Comrades, pick your Leader carefully. The British people need an effective opposition. Not someone who gives you all a nice, warm cosy feeling inside and provides a safe place for your identity as a Caring Socialist.”

    In finishing (in my own voice), I would add that the PLP should have to power to stick the knife in and get rid of a Leader who is just going nowhere (sorry, Ed). It’s not a game and there are many who are going to suffer badly (very badly) as a result of the Budget this week.

    But, hey, we all knew that was going to happen and Ed was left in place.

  5. John R says:

    Why was Andy Newman ever allowed to be a member of the Labour Party never mind a PPC?

    Andy Newman 2007 –

    “Now let us make something absolutely clear. I think that given Britain is at war, then those fighting for the national independence of Iraq and Afghanistan would be entirely justified in sabotage against these bases [Brize Norton and RAF Lyneham] or other military action against the British armed forces, both in the UK and overseas. As defined by section 2, b(ii) of the Terrorism Act 2006, I am “reckless as to whether members of the public will be directly or indirectly encouraged or otherwise induced by [this] statement to commit, prepare or instigate such acts or offences.” ”

    I don’t know, did he put this into his speech when he was chosen as a PPC?

  6. Delta says:

    “We all want a fairer society.

    We all want more equal opportunities.

    We all want to take the fight to the Tories.

    We all want to win!”

    Lol how funny

    Your candidates are the products of an unfair society.
    They are the result of inequality and promote lackies either on the basis of racial and sexual quotas through positive discrimination.
    Your Party is undemocratic therefore it advocates inequality and weakens representation of ordinary people.
    You want to make it look as though you have incraesed equality because you will not..what you want is irrelevant, its what you’ll do that scares the public.

    You would not know how to fight anyone if you were given simple large font instructions let alone another political party – lets face it you can only triangulate clumsily and still have not accepted defeat.

    Good I am glad you want to win because that is the only reason your party exists at the moment, you want other peoples money and you want to win…

  7. michaelworcs says:

    ‘The real enemies are the Tories ‘. Frankly this is a childish statement. It is opposition for oppositions sake. What is needed is intelligent debate showing the weaknesses of Tory policies. Showing how Labour would do it better

  8. Madasafish says:

    If Labour supporters all really wanted a fairer society, they would ensure no Labour candidate would be chosen on the grounds of race, religion , sexuality or birth.

    Just picking the last point, Labour has form on nepotism…

    So before lecturing us piously on what Labour will do to reform, it can start by stopping the selection of the offspring of Labour Lords and MPs…See Hilary Benn, Tristram Hunt and Stephen Kinnock.. And Jack Dromey.

    “Don’t do as I do, do as I say ” is not a compelling message.

  9. Dave Roberts. says:

    I agree about Andy Newman but as he is a complete non entity he isn’t a problem. The problems are Livingstone, Shawcroft and Corbyn. Even if the latter does well we are in a real mess. Yes, an even worse one than we are now.

  10. John P Reid says:

    Madasafish ,I sent hoeen Goodman a Twitter comment that ,unlike Yvette As Liz Kendall didn’t have kids,she couldn’t be leader ,as nepotism for her off spring,would be impossible

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