Saturday, September 18, 2010

The next Labour Prime Minister

As we move into the last days of the Labour leadership contest, it's worth wondering who will be the next Labour prime minister.

The problem is that, I suspect, it will be none of the above.

I don't think anyone takes the candidacy of Andy Burnham or Diane Abbot seriously.  That leaves the two Milliband brothers and Ed Balls.

Ed Balls was Gordon Brown's closest advisor as he took Britain's economy from being the strongest In Europe to almost the weakest.  If he became the next Labour leader, the Tories would make hay with this.  As for the Milliband brothers, they have lacked political courage.  Where was Ed Milliband (a Blairite) when Tony needed him?  Why did David Milliband not challenge Gordon Brown for leadership of the party?

In short, the Millibands remind me too much of John Major, who was a decent man but an example of the Peter Principle.  Ed Balls was the architect of our current economic disaster and the others won't make it for one reason or another.

So where is the next Labour leader?  How do political parties recover from the kind of electoral collapse that Labour has seen this year?

In the case of the Tories, it took years and a few leaders to come right, but they did eventually regain power.  However, there can be a number of false starts along the way in any such process.  The Republicans in the the USA serve as an example of what can go wrong, being in danger of losing mid-term elections that should be won, as the radical Tea Party pulls them to extremes.

It would be a shame if this happened to Labour.  Democracy does best when there is a vibrant opposition, well led that poses a real intellectual and political threat to the government.  Sadly none of the candidates for Labour leadership look set to lead such a revival.  Ask any Tory which of these candidates he fears and the reply will come "None of them."

Years ago my elder son was running for election at university.  In addition to each of the candidates, the students had the option of voting for none of the above by ticking the RON (Re-Open Nominations) box, which they quite often did.  It's a pity that this option is not open to Labour voters, because if they want another Labour Prime Minister it won't be any of these five.

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