Posts Tagged ‘The Candidate’

“Marvin … What do we do now?” Hopi Sen’s advice for the next leader

22/07/2010, 10:26:03 AM

The passage of time being what it is, some Uncut readers won’t be familiar with “The Candidate”, a 1972 film featuring Robert Redford as an insurgent Senate candidate struggling to retain his idealistic purity while trying to beat a popular Republican incumbent.

The film was written by Jeremy Larner, a speechwriter for Gene McCarthy in the 1968 Election campaign.  McCarthy didn’t win the Presidency, but Larner did win an Oscar.

It’s a great film, not least because of the perfomance of Peter Boyle, playing political consultant Marvin Lucas. Once you’ve seen Lucas, all gleaming pate, glasses, beard and calculated cynicism, it’s hard not to see the West Wing’s Toby Ziegler as a tribute act.

Why do I raise a forty year old American film?

Because the challenges that face the next leader of the Labour party mirror those facing the fictional Bill McKay. At the end of the film, McKay turns to the man who has reshaped and remoulded him and asks “Marvin, What do we do now?”  

On the 25th of September, when the last vote has been wrung out of the campaign, when the challenge to inspire the party alone has ended, one of the teams will need a great answer to that question. 

It could be Spencer, Stewart, Polly, or Jim, Douglas, Blair or Kate, or Alex or another Jim who get asked. Their answer might decide the fate of the Labour party for years.

The questions the new Labour Leader will be confronted with won’t be much different to the ones they’ve faced over the campaign, but the attention paid to their answers will be.

These first months can kill when you’re a new opposition leader, unknown to most of the public and with years to run before an election, as Kinnock, Hague and IDS all discovered. Each was defined early in their leadership. None quite recovered.

So in an attempt to be helpful, here are five things to do, and two disasters to avoid for the next leader. (more…)

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