We now have a range of candidates who have said they are standing for the leadership, from all wings of the party. We also have, at last, a candidate other than white middle-aged men. I think that more importantly, we have candidates from all sides in the party. However, there is a danger that some of the candidates will not get enough nominations from MP’s to get onto the ballot paper.
There are calls to allow all of them to stand regardless, but this is unwise, as it could set a precedent for future elections, and allow any disgruntled back bencher to stand and get him or herself onto the ballot paper. But what should the level be? This is where we are in the territory of an arbitrary number – we could say 10, or 20 MPs, or 5% or 10% of the PLP. There is an argument for and against all of these suggestions – and others beside.
My suggestion is for 20 MPs to be the number – not too large, not too small – and also for no more nominations to be accepted for a candidate once that level has been reached. That will stop allegations of candidates “sweeping up all the MPs to prevent the others from getting on the ballot paper”. No particular reason for that number, just sounds good.
Now to the actual contest itself. I will have to come out now and say that I always thought that Ed Milliband was a dark horse, and would make an excellent leader. In my day job, I had seen close up his work as Climate Change Secretary, and the job he has done to push the energy agenda. If our levels of debt are the biggest problem facing the country (and I don’t totally agree with that) then Climate change is surely a good second. Indeed, if we dont solve the issues with the earth’s climate then it doesnt matter how much money we owe – we’re all doomed.
Although a low level (and pretty thankless) job, the role of Secretary of State for Climate Change and Energy gave Ed a chance to shine and show his enthusiasm for engaging with people, whilst promoting a message that isnt always welcomed. These are the very character traits we will need in the years ahead, and he will make an excellent leader.
His brother, David, however was the early front runner – for obvious reasons. With a longer track record in parliament (indeed, longer than David Cameron or Nick Clegg) and the experience at a number of ministries, including some that, I belive will be crucial in our come back. His time at Communities and Local Government, for instance will have given him an insight into our housing crisis. He was actually the cabinet member, whilst at DEFRA, who pushed the Climate Change bill through parliament. His time at the Foreign Office will give him that stature that was so missing from some of the leaders – but which won’t be lacking at the next election.
Ed Balls has had a bad press, and I think he was not helped by being seen by some in the party to be too close to Gordon Brown, instead of being his own man. This shouldnt detract, in my opinion from his excellent record, especially in the area of the co-operative movement. His experience at the treasury will also prove an asset in the coming years. Once again, we have an excellent candidate who will make a first-rate leader – and a great Prime Minister.
I know less about the other candidates, but this leadership campaign will give them the opportunity to let us know of what they can offer to the party. Because, make no mistake, the decision we as a party take now, will affect the future of the country – if we can blunt the scale of the vicious cuts the conservatives will make, and shape the future we can build after the next election.