Sunday, 18 July 2010

Labour Leadership Forum

I was one of more than 600 Labour Party members this morning attending the Labour Leadership husting in Birmingham. All five contenders were there – the two Millibands, Ed Balls, Diane Abbott and Andy Burnham. I’d heard an item on the radio this week telling me how boring these events are, how bland, how controlled, how predictable.

In truth, I found it fascinating and important. And judging by the warm reception from the audience I wasn’t the only one. It’s true that questions had to be written down in advance, were selected by the Chair and each of the five contenders was given one minute to respond. ‘Control freakery?’ – hardly – with 600 audience members and five on the panel, you could hardly have a free-flowing discussion could you?

The answers coming from the panel were superior to the platforming answers on Question Time . . . which long ago ceased to be a programme of serious political debate.

I went to the meeting today undecided – I truly did wish to hear what they had to say. I agreed with some of what was said and disagreed with other bits. Most of the panel, for instance, support the graduate tax and AV – both of which I’ve written against here. Differences came out on Afghanistan, CCTV, DNA database; Diane Abbott would take the railways back into public ownership – something that will never happen . . . at least in my life-time.

But most important (and the reason these events are important) was the genuine feeling of working together that existed in the hall. And this was supported by a genuine passion to get Labour going again.

And from each of the Leaders intelligence, thought, integrity, and a powerful ability to communicate.

I now know who I shall be supporting for Leadership; but I would hope to see all the other four take a place in leading the party in opposition and taking it into government. And quickly into government.

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