Sunday, 1 August 2010
Choosing a Labour caretaker leader?
I'm still really sad about the Labour leadership. 4 people who have done nothing in life accept pass academic exams and then become professional politicians and then there's crazy lovable mixed up Diane.
I have met and personally liked David Miliband and he has the intellectual capacity, the warmth and the sense of humour that a potential Labour leader might need. But he is not a connecter in his conversation and appears not to do small talk. He is too intellectual, too inclined to cover a policy fudge with a turn of phrase that will delight him and his Westminster friends but confuse the public, and he lacks guts and courage - or so far I've seen no sign of it. I fear that a newly confident Cameron could knock the stuffing out of him in parliamentary confrontations.
Nor does the average British voter like or trust an intellectual as leader of the country. In the past John Major tried to curry favour with the British public by lying about the fact he had failed ALL his O levels. Soon it transpired that he had actually gained a couple.
Ed Miliband has the guts, at least to stand up to his brother, but not much more. Better at human contact then his brother but not realy a listener either. Seems a bit sneaky to me although he is good on green issues.
The pugnacious Ed Balls is his own worst enemy. At present he is the only one carrying the fight to the Tories, especially over Gove's mad school "reform" programme, but he has so much bluster, is so associated with the worst aspects of Brown's sad fight against his own party and has the effrontery to turn against Labour's earlier bold decision to open up the UK labour market to Poles, Hungarians and other Central Europeans. Nobody trusts him, except perhaps his loving crafty wife, Yvette. Now I could see HER as a future Labour leader. But then Ed Balls as PM's consort? Oh, no! Worse than Denis Thatcher, who at least kept out of active politics.
I cannot make much impression of earnest and hard-working Andy Burnham, as he is too young and too colourless at present. A bit of a swot. In 10 years time he may be a lion, but I have yet to believe that.
Diane Abbott has the fire and personality to be leader and she can certainly increase the black vote for Labour. At least she knows more about life outside politics and can share the concerns and suffering of ordinary voters.
But she is unstable and not very intelligent, inclined to bully to reinforce her prejudices and her leadership could endanger support from Labour's Asian voters. However any future leader who failed to put her in a Shadow Cabinet job, would be mad, even if he would have to put up with her occasional nonsense. She could be the next John Prescott.
I loved her stand on her son's education. No, really. After her bombastic attacks on Harriet Harman and Tony Blair over sending their children to more selective state schools, she goes the whole hog and sends her own son to a private school - the City of London School.
I couldn't believe it was her when I first ran into her at a parents' reception at the school. She wore a label showing her name as "Thompson" or something, but I could not take my eyes off her. As she walked past me, drink in hand, I bent over to her and whispered in her ear "Nice to see another Labour Party supporter here". She stopped in astonishement and then screwed up her face into a mischievous smile and put her finger over her lips. In view of her earlier public statements I was quite astounded by her presence there and mentioned it half jokingly to my MP, asking him if he was sending his kids to a private school as well. He thought I was bonkers and had imagined the whole thing.
Anyway the story broke in the press several months later and I admired her for her sheer brazen response that as a Labour politician there was no justification for what she had done, but as a mother she had made the right choice in order to counter the lure of Hackney street culture. I actually agreed with that answer. I just wish she had not made such a hypocritical song and dance about it over other MPs children beforehand. I even sent her an e-mail of support and got a sweet response from her in return.
Sadly, none of the 5 contenders has the necessary range of quality attributes to be the next Labour leader. You need a combination of political courage, intelligence, intellectual honesty, capacity for hard work and be attuned to the language and needs of the voter, especially as we all face this bewildering minefield of massive cuts which would undermine Bitain's economy for decades if implemented as announced by Osborne and Co.
Individually none of the candidates measure up. But between the 5 of them those qualities are there, provided that they can group around whoever is finally selected on September 25th and all five of them serve as leaders together in the new shadow cabinet. Because all 5 of them have some quality they can input. The electorate would react positively to a harmonious collective leadership. David could be the nominal leader, the Eisenhower, the "primus inter pares", and be able to delegate decision-making and policy leads to his colleagues, in a way that Blair and Brown were incapable of doing.
There lies the only hope for Labour. And for the country as a whole.