Not who, but what?

I must say that I am almightily concerned by the vacuity of the leadership contest so far. There seems to be a lot of zombification going on. David Miliband appears to be the most vacuous of the lot, with Ed Balls a close second, if only because Andy Burnham has declared himself the ‘continuity candidate’. Which happens to be exactly what I don’t want to vote for.

At least he has cards on the table, and will receive my last transfer, which DM and EdB aren’t yet worthy of until I get some policy commitments or real philosophy.

On David Miliband in particular, I completely agree with my fellow Bevanite here, save for the fact that I think free membership is a good idea. I feel that David Miliband is perhaps a little unfairly typecast as eye-wateringly Blairite, but I don’t see what’s wrong with doing that given that he seems to keen not to repudiate what is effectively the most powerful attack against him.

I am concerned that he doesn’t want to disassociate himself from neoliberalism, the war in Iraq, civil illiberality or the abolition of the Labour Party via the smashing of the union link. He seems to have nothing to say about any of it.

Low turnout – Labour’s biggest enemy

I spent a good chunk of this week and last campaigning for Comrades in Haverstock Ward, Camden, who were fighting a council by-election. For a start, I was very surprised to see such a large amount of Lib Dem activists openly identifying themselves. New Labour has had many wrong-headed (and sometimes catastrophic) policies. But New Labour never went in with the Tories, or started massive organised programmes of job losses. Liberals were using the same arguments on a national basis that they had used for their sorry local alliance with the Tories previously – ‘Labour didn’t want a deal with us’.

Good politicians are not political harlots. A situation of accepting the uglier bedfellow simply because of the strength of the urge is no defence. Maintain chastity. Nobody ever has to enter coalition with anyone else. That is a simple fact, and a convenient one to abandon if you are power-hungry and utterly unprincipled.

That is not to say that all coalitions are unprincipled. More that for any party left of Ghengis Khan, or even any party rooted in a local community, all coalitions with Tories are unprincipled.

The Lib Dems narrowly beat us, and I was honestly gutted. But it does confirm that in many places, the Lib Dem vote is simply a middle class anti-Labour vote, not based on policy or which direction the country will take, but because of a ‘progressive’ disdain for the poor and their annoying habit of crudely organising to defend themselves.

Why did we lose? Well, turnout was 34%, despite everyone being knocked up multiple times. Any cross section of the registered electorate is always more Labour than that which turns out on the day. Our supporters are the type of people who are more likely to do hard physical work, long hours, or simply not to know what is going on with any certainty.

This has implications for the core vs marginal debate that Labour often indulges in. People call this silly, which is very nice, but objectively it still matters.

No matter how marginal a place is, you still need a core to make up a majority of the vote you do get. What we need more than anything is to be widely perceived as a party which inspires these people. Even with the Con-Dem government in place, we still need a positive vision, image, articulation and accompanying organisation which can do this. A lot of it is there. The PR job that will need to be performed by the next leader is therefore crucial.

In short, we need a leader who looks like a break from the last 13 years, and provides vision over triangulation.

Leadership election

Well, that’s an opportune time to get blogging again. Needless to say, my first choice would probably be Jon Cruddas, who I hope will run. And win.

Failing that, Ed Miliband has my vote.

The problem is that all the possible contenders are different stripes of Blair, or they are John McDonnell… who I have found in the past to be surrounded by the wrong people, completely nonconstructive when it comes to working with the wider Labour left, and completely unrealistic in most political senses. Which is a shame, because he speaks well, and is a nice guy in person.

More coverage here soon. In the meantime, Ken Livingstone has a piece in this week’s Tribune which I think sets out the real big issue with absolute perfection. We must move on from New Labour.

Update: I couldn’t agree with this more. A lot of people will feel like this, but they need to have the courage and the opportunity to back a candidate who shares their point of view.