As I arrived in Westminster this evening to attend the Christian Socialist Movement Leadership Hustings I feared the worst. After all I had read the Polly Toynbee article about these hustings and assumed I was about to bored out of my pants.
I admit the format did not cause sparks to fly but the genuine differences of emphasis were certainly there. So although this was not the normal fight you used to get in the party for the leadership that is to be welcomed – not to be moaned about!
However, I did hope to see more fundamental challenges to the direction of travel at a Christian Socialist event. We have to recognise that the old model of politics is not fully functional and that unfettered capitalism is also pretty broken. There is room in this parliament for Labour to get out of governing mode and to think some pretty deep thoughts. I do believe people are looking for some pretty radical solutions to the problems the world is facing. I don’t think less government for its own sake is what the most vulnerable in society are looking for from their leaders. There is the potential of a massive vaccum in Britis politics. It is one that the BNP started to fill with its hate politics. I think we should be ready to fill it with the radical idealism of the early Christian socialists and to talk again about redsitribution and equality. We need to talk more critically of the markets and big business when it is right to do so. We need to stop being afraid. We need to get back on the front foot and say what we believe. In a very small way some of these things were hinted at by Ed Milliband. They were said by Diane Abbott.
I know each of the candidates and am happy to see we have such a range of talented people in the Party. There ae other ‘big hitters’ who are not even in this partcular battle.
For me this is how I see it: David Miliband is clearly the most impressive and looks and sounds like a Prime Minister already. Ed his brother is pretty sure footed too and whilst not carrying the same gravitas says things that are nearer to my own politics. Ed Balls is again nearer my own political anlysis in many areas but whilst a great ‘political fighter’ I am not convinced by his abilty to reach out and is certainly no as confident or fluent as the Millibands. I am more impressed by Dinae Abbott than I expected. To be perfectly honest I have never really rated her in the Commons. But she comes across as much warmer than I expected in thise environment. I am sure there are many on the left who warm to her message – but on the question of is she electable – the answer is imply NO. Which leaves my close friend Andy Burnham. I like and Andy and had heard he has surprised many by ‘winning’ some of the debates. He was not too impressive this evening. I think he sounds too much like me. It’s ok at one level – but it is not th calrity of thought and expression you expect of a potential prime minister.
Sadly the role of Leader and PM – as we have discovered to our cost in the 2010 election – is presentation and style. I wish it was not so, but it is now a fact of life for the time being. On that basis I will be supporting David Millibnd. I believe he can connect with party supporters and more crucially those voters we lost between 97 and 2010. In my conversations with people who drifted awy from us in 2010 David is the clear winner. Elections are about winners!
So it was not quite as dull as I was lead to believe – but it does need to let the sparks fly with imagination to get us all REALLY excited.