There are many factors that influence voters in any election. A party leadership election is a particularly interesting one in that respect.
Why ? Well I feel it’s because a party leader really has two very different jobs – one is to “lead” the party, to steer it in a particular direction, to get the various different forces within the party to pull together so that the resultant force is in the direction which the leader, and the party as a whole want to go.
The second job however is to get the party into government. This means appealing not just to members, or regular voters of a party, but also to those who may not support the party. For an opposition party this is particularly important – without the support of a few more people who voted otherwise at the last election, the party will stay in opposition.
So in considering who to vote for I’ve tried to ask myself : Can I see this person as a leader of the Labour Party, and secondly : Can I see this person as Prime Minister ?
This is what I came up with :
First of all I think the field of candidates is a remarkably strong one – if I have a disappointment it is that there are no more female candidates – I think it’s high time Labour had a woman as leader. If they don’t choose to run though, then that’s their choice. I think Harriet Harman has done remarkably well standing in, in the interim however. I’d have been pleased to have seen Yvette Cooper running as well.
Which leads me nicely to Diane Abbott – I like Diane – she has personality to spare, a strongly evident sense of humour, and is not afraid to be outspoken. I could just about see her as Labour leader – I couldn’t see her as Prime Minister though – the massed ranks of the Tory media would have her for Breakfast, Dinner & Tea (or should that be Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner) – and I think she’s be a very vulnerable target for those wishing to make the Labour Party look foolish. Which is a shame – I still think she has a great deal to offer as a politician.
With Andy Burnham the trouble I’ve had is that I’ve almost had to look him up on Wikipedia to find out much about him. I’ve received less information about him during the campaign than any of the others, and it’s been frankly very low-key – I’d find it difficult to identify a picture of him. An invisible leader will not win any elections, so although I’ve no reason to doubt his ability as a politician, neither do I have much positive evidence either, My guess is that the wider non-Labour electorate would say “Andy who ?” – so sorry Andy, you don’t get my vote either.
Which leaves my top three – the two Miliband brothers and Ed Balls.
I could certainly see any of these three as a Labour leader. I could certainly see any one of them ultimately as a Prime Minister. Whatever the eventual result of the leadership election, I won’t have any worries about belonging to a party led by any of these three – they are able politicians, conducting strong campaigns, and I feel that they all have the potential to bring the public around to supporting the Labour party.
So how do I choose my 1, 2, 3 ?
Well my first instinct was to go for Ed Balls. Ed is someone who has responded to letters from a local MP regarding concerns I’d raised regarding my school, on two separate occasions, with sensible and timely advice. He has read my blog on a number of occasions, and has exchanged e-mails and twitter messages. I’ve met him at the House of Commons, and found him to be very impressive. On a personal level then, this makes him a good choice for me – I’ve not met either of the Milibands, and had no interaction with them up to now.
So it was looking like Ed Balls for 1st choice to me – but how did I choose between the other two ?
It quickly became apparent that the Miliband brothers were the two front-runners in this race. Obvious too, that commentators and some supporters were trying to cast David in the role of the “New Labour” candidate, carrying the torch of the Tony Blair legacy, while Ed supposedly represented a return to “core” Labour values – to win back the votes of disillusioned left-wing voters, who had deserted the party after the commencement of the Iraq war.
For myself, I can’t really believe that any of the candidates will be definable primarily along those lines – I really don’t think that there are massive differences in approach, between these three – but that this Right side / Left side argument which is flying through the online community, is trying to stir this up in order to tribalise the leadership contest.
I blogged on this here some days ago Can we stop fighting amongst ourselves please ? « Northernheckler’s Blog
At the time it was tempting me away from the Miliband brothers who seemed to be the axis of the sudden burst of in-fighting – which led me more towards Ed Balls.
The next day I had a campaign e-mail from the David Miliband campaign : David Miliband Campaign e-mail
I liked what I read. It was almost as if he’d read my blog. Or at least was expressing exactly the same sentiments as I was.
Over the next couple of days, Tony Blair appeared increasingly on the news in relation to his new book. I lost count of the number of negative comments about him – these from supposed Labour supporters – comparing him with Margaret Thatcher, calling him a war criminal, saying he was the worst leader Labour had ever had. Many of them as well linking him directly to David Miliband.
Well actually I rather liked Tony Blair. Rather respected him too – he took principled, if controversial decisions about Iraq, which had huge popular support, as well as a substantial parliamentary majority. He achieved a lasting peace in Northern Ireland, and led Labour to an unprecedented three terms in office.
But I’m not a Blairite. Or a Brownite – I’m a left of centre Labour member and voter. Blair and Brown are gone. New Labour isn’t new anymore. Old Labour is similarly in the past.
I re-read David Miliband’s email. It seemed to sum up everything I was thinking.
And so I voted :
1. David Miliband
2. Ed Balls
3. Ed Miliband
I didn’t indicate a 4th and 5th choice – as I don’t think the other two candidates are Prime Ministerial material,
So a close run thing which has in the end been decided by my negative interpretation of Labour supporters slagging off other candidates and tribalising different factions within the party, and ultimately I’ve been tipped over the edge by a single e-mail. So I’d like to say “Sorry Ed !” to my 2 and 3 selections.
If you find my reasoning quirky or illogical, you could well be right – but that’s how I came to my decision.
I look forward to reading other bloggers’ accounts of how they made up their minds