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Saturday, May 30, 2015

Labour leadership contenders flounder around looking for an identity

Whilst the Liberal Democrats are quietly getting on with our own leadership contest (and no I have no idea who I will be supporting yet), all the attention is being directed to Labour's own fight to elect a leader of the opposition.

Watching the Labour leadership candidates set out their stall I am increasingly getting the impression that I have entered an alternative universe. Candidates appear to have abandoned the battle for the heart and soul of the Labour party in favour of an unprecedented identity quest. Some of the pitches are so unorthodox that it is difficult to know who they are aiming them at.

For a start there is Liz Kendall who, according to the Guardian, is stressing her support for children from white working class backgrounds. She has praised one primary school for having an “aspirations week”, saying such programmes were needed to “teach girls and boys, particularly from white working class communities, about the chances in life they may not even know exist – like being an engineer, a chemist and even leader of the Labour party”.

Kendall has also mentioned the need to help white working-class communities, during a journalists’ gathering in Westminster last week, when she said Labour would still “be doing the best for kids, particularly in white-working class communities” in 2020.

It is a strange choice of words for somebody aspiring to lead a party, which in the past has aspired to help everybody step up the ladder, irrespective of their background.

Meanwhile, Andy Burnham is seeking to corner the Blairite vote within the Labour Party with his support for further welfare cuts, including government plans for a £23,000 cap on benefits if it has adequate safeguards. I am not sure what his colleagues in the Welsh Assembly Labour group, who have been particularly vociferous in their opposition to such cuts, will have to say about that.

And for the sake of completeness, there is Yvette Cooper who, according to the New Statesman, is floundering a bit in her bid for the top job. They say that her campaign is distinctly lacking in pheromones:

It feels as if her aides were asked to dust off the Ed Miliband playbook, but instead of reenacting his successful bid for the party leadership have disinterred his disastrous pitch for the general election.
Just as with the Miliband operation, the campaign seems to be putting its faith in organisational innovation: a network of regional organisers will get out the vote at a local level and never mind the national press or burgeoning Labour blogosphere. 

But they don’t seem to have learnt the lesson from Miliband’s defeat: a well-organised ground game doesn’t help you if you have a product no-one wants to buy.

All-in-all it is not looking as if the Labour leadership campaign has got off to a good start.
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