Labour Party,  UK Politics

Let the left in; open up the leadership race

According to the Labour Party’s latest online nominations count leftwingers John McDonnell and Diane Abbott only have seven votes between them. They have little chance of getting to the magic 33 MPs required meaning that if something doesn’t seriously change in the next eight days the leadership competition will be reduced to a three way fight between David Miliband, Ed Balls and Ed Miliband.

There is ground between the three, but the race needs to be more than three former ministers trading punches.

It needs to be broader and take in other voices from the party and only a ministerial outsider who is at odds with the other three will ensure that happens.

It is on this that The Guardian today issues a reminder in a leader (it also has pieces by all six candidates on CiF)  saying that while Abbott and McDonnell have their weaknesses “on specific issues such as ID cards, Iraq and tax their arguments do not merely resonate on Labour’s radical fringe, but across swaths of middle England”.

It also makes an important point about how failure to open up the debate beyond the three leaves the Labour Party in danger of drifting into another Gordon Brown moment. A moment where he strolled into office without having to take to the stump and define his ideas. All his fighting it seemed had been done in getting Tony Blair to go.

“The Brown coronation was disastrous as it anointed a man without requiring him to define himself. All the leading candidates say they want to renew their party. How better to prove it than to lend their surplus nominations to Mr McDonnell, Ms Abbott and for that matter to the New Labour populist Andy Burnham? If renewal means anything, it is surely a truly open race.”

If they take up the growing call to do so, I hope the candidates also take up David Miliband’s invitation to take part in a TV debate.  It’s possibly a risky move by David Miliband, it is his younger brother who is talked about as being televisually stronger, but it the right one all the same.

In the same way that the General Election leadership debate opened up the race and got people talking this could do the same for Labour.

In a letter to the other five candidates David Miliband, wrote: “This leadership election must be a credit to the Labour party. It should also be our chance to re-engage the public so we can both understand why we lost but also to show how we will win back their trust. Therefore we should use every opportunity to engage the widest possible audience. The TV debate fired up interest in the election – and could be an excellent way to re-engage people with Labour.”