Coverage of the Labour Leadership elections would almost lead one to believe that we were re -running the General Election. Labour made clear from the start that this would be an open election; with the public and not just members being integral to the contest.
It’s an important strategy for the party who, in the weeks following the election, have repeatedly admitted that the public had lost confidence in them as a party and felt that they could no longer trust them.
That’s not to say that the previous Labour leadership election was very much under wraps; the candidates all took part in televised debates. It just seems that this time round candidates are anywhere and everywhere trying to convince people as to why they should be the new leader. This morning for instance they could be found on the Victoria Derbyshire show answering the public’s concerns.
This whole strategy is an interesting one and perhaps one that should be dissected further. Firstly members of the public cannot vote in the leadership election unless they are a member of the Labour party; so to some onlookers this may appear a waste of time and energy trying to convince an electorate – who ultimately have no say in the leadership – of their propriety for the job. Clearly the public will end up voting for one of these candidates in a future election but not now. Secondly one could argue that too much time is being put into the spectacle of endless debates and not enough time into the policies that ultimately left the party unappealing in May. For now, some would surely argue that it is more important for the party alone to pick a new leader (and deputy leader) and restructure itself around them before they turn to the public. A new united front to blow away any cobwebs from this year’s disappointment.
It’s an interesting point.
The leadership battle also needs to be reconsidered when we look at the reputation gained by former leader Ed Miliband. Ed was not the favourite to win his leadership election but gained support from the trade unions. This turned out to be a double edged sword; it did help Ed to gain the leadership but in the long term it was to berate him by competitors. By making the whole process seem more public orientated the party might hope to shed this “controlled by the unions” image that for the most part is not true but a political convenience for opposition. The new leader can therefore be said to be one that the public responded well to and that could move the party forward.
Additionally the new leader will have to be able to defend themselves and the party’s record in front of the public so why not start now? Shouting “Hell yes I’m tough enough” in Jeremy Paxman’s face may have been enough for Ed but it’s not going to rebuild a party that lost some of its’ biggest names like Ed Balls in the last election. They will need to start growing that thick skin that many believed Ed Miliband to have lacked and the confidence to stand up against media criticism. These public appearances will certainly be a good testing ground for that.
In comparison to all this we have the Liberal Democrat leadership election. With only eight MP’s to choose a leader from everything seems to have gone quiet in the Lib Dem camp. No televised debates, no talks with the public and very little media coverage from a party that was in power until a few months ago; it is a real and stark contrast.
So with weeks still on the clock for the Labour Leadership (and probably only days for the Lib Dems) this very public leadership election shows no sign of slowing down or becoming more private.