Who’ll be Labour’s next leader?


10:46 pm - February 14th 2009

by Sunny Hundal    


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Mike Smithson asks if Ed Balls might be the next Labour leader. No, is the short answer. To my mind I can only see one vaguely credible candidate: Ed Miliband. If anyone even thinks of James Purnell they should shoot themselves in disgust. Or I’m sure Laurie Penny would be willing to do it.

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Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Reader comments


Milliband has no resonance with the public – he is too anonymous

Balls is well Balls

Purnell is too oily

I think Harman is the most likely winner of any contest.

2. Chris Baldwin

I’d like Ségolène Royal…

Well the smart money is on Harriet Harman , seriously , her campaign is well underway and she has already suprised everyone once . Ed Milliband is a congenital idiot it’s a bit of surprise he lived past 30 . Really has there ever been a Labour leader as intellectually enfeebled ? David Millband is obviously the bright one but no-one will support him after his invertebrate come and chase me routine . I still think he is only the only Labour politicians with the basic grey matter to live with Cameron and even he is a dismal zero compared to the Labour leaders of the past.

I guarantee you it will not be Ed Milliband , he cannot iron a shirt without sticking his tongue out and even Labour do not need eight committees to see that

Can’t see Ed, he looks too much like a policy wonk, Purnell is well…Purnell, Balls’ eye’s bulge far too much to be leader. Harriet would be far too divisive…

Ed Miliband the policy wonk? Have you guys heard him speak? Out of all the cabinet ministers, he is probably the best.

Cruddas is the man you need to ensure keeps his seat

He might just beat Harman

Simon – Jon Cruddas would never stand. If he wanted to, he would have taken a cabinet position or a ministerial position ages ago.
Alan Johnson – nice guy but would never work as leader…

Alan Johnson? Has he been written off completely now?

Aside, it’s not Smithson, it’s Morus on PB.com, not that it really matters.

Johnson is on record as saying that he isn’t leadership material.

He might be a passable deputy leader – but I think his time has gone now

I agree on Purnell – that the Spectator thinks him the best candidate should warn Labour of the fact that to elect him would be to vote for an end to the Labour party being in any way social-democratic.

Ed Miliband is not the right person for the job either, though. I just don’t think he has the credentials: he isn’t plain-speaking enough to provide a rough-around-the-edges contrast to David Cameron; he’s another professional politician – a gamble in a political climate where experience and reliability are rising in value while PR sheen and charisma are seeing their stock falling. On the latter issue, i think some may have thought that that was simply a short-term reaction to the end of Blair’s Prime Ministership, but i believe it is part of a more deeply-embedded, wider dissatisfaction with the increasing isolation and insulation of the political class from the rest of the country, itself linked to the unresponsiveness of the political system.

Furthermore, i think the Labour party would do well, in the present climate, to bank significantly to the left. There is an appetite for a greater emphasis on social justice, after 11 years of a government that has fundamentally failed to deliver in that respect, despite the money it spent, and the collapse of an economic consensus where its unfairness was only ‘justified’ by the prosperity it seemed to be delivering. Ed Miliband is not a man of the left, nor do the public recognise him as such (if they recognise him at all).

Therefore, i would suggest Jon Cruddas as a better candidate. Granted, he’s as much a professional politician as Ed Miliband, but he has shown himself to be unusually principled, outspoken and plainspeaking for one, and he has union & working class credentials. I don’t mean that in a kind of narrow class politics way, but i think it’s important because it would be useful as the basis on which to build a narrative about understanding aspiration and wanting more social mobility: an essential part of any ‘social justice’ platform. Obviously, he has the left-wing views, too, which helps.

Nevertheless, i very much doubt he will be the next leader; the above is not how the Labour party seems to think anymore, which is part of why i don’t support it.

Hillary Benn, woo…?

As much as he is a nice guy, his profile is too low to make a credible leader.

If David Milliband could do something with his public image, give Jon Cruddas the job he really wants (organising and energising local Labour parties) and have a Deputy Leader who could balance him out on his weaker points (Alan Johnson, as much as he is apparently “past it?” I’d be in favour of him.

But, personally, I feel disillusioned with this current crop of future leaders on all benches. I feel the most credible candidates are all tainted by the politics that Tony Blair crafted. The almost Presidential image of a party leader, as opposed to a Prime Minister. Give me 10 years, unless something radical happens soon, and we might have someone you can actually admire and engage with.

Milliband is already tainted. If he wins it’ll likely not be through public opinion.

Depending when the next leadership contest will be and if its during a time in oppisition then I would go for Yvette Cooper.

14. Chris Baldwin

Why not Jack Straw?

As a non-Labour member, Harman seems to me an obvious contender, yet people within Labour tend to dismiss her. Why is that?

16. Laurie Penny

*grins*

I think what we’re all not saying is that it’s fairly likely that whoever leads the Labour party next is almost certainly not going to be prime minister, ever. So the question is who’s charismatic but principled enough to be the leader Labour needs through the wilderness – and are they prepared to make the sacrifice?

I vote Cruddas. Also, Lammy 4 MaIR.

God I hope it is Ed Milliband , birthday and Chritsmas !

David Freud defects to the Tories.

No idea what to make of that.

Considering Labour replace every position with someone tougher, more authoritarian and more conservative the answer is obvious: John Reid

I agree with Laurie – although I think ironically Cruddas becoming Labour leader would be a waste of his talents…when we need to reach out to different movements, projects and parties if we want to act & organise to make change happen

Mind you, if Labour lose the elections, at least that can free up Purnell to join his mentor Freud with the Tories…

I’m sorry to say it’s beyond all doubt going to Harman. She’s awful but none of the other candidates can win it – David Milliband lost the party when he bottled contesting the leadership at conference last year, Jack Straw’s too old, Alan Johnson would be great but doesn’t want it, Ed M clearly doesn’t think he’s ready or he’d be running already, James Purnell is too divisive, John Cruddas is a wishful thinking from the left, there aren’t enough like him left in the party.

The party will lurch all over the place (though mostly to the right to follow where the Tories lead) and have a succession of leaders. Whilst the Tories already have replacements for Cameron lined up – Nick Herbert for one.

Face there isn’t going to be another Labour government until at least 2020.

Oh and no-one will ever stand for a man called Ed Balls being the leader of a major political party. And I’m only half joking.

Give it five or six years and Yvette Cooper might be good.

I predict a sensentional return for George Galloway

Whoever is in power, we can’t wait any longer for our leaders to see the light or feel the winder on their backs. We’ve let the bonus bandits, the con artist capitalists take over our banks and take our money and now they want to take our homes and kick us out of our jobs. We talk about what the political classes should or shouldn’t be doing, but surely the fightback also demands something better from us?

Can’t see it being Slimy Workhouse somehow; indeed I wouldn’t be surprised if he follows his mentor, hedge fund manager David Fra^Heud, across the floor after Labour lose the next election.

Regarding the other major contenders, rearrange the words “rearrange”, “Titanic” and “deckchairs”. There’s no chance that they’ll pick a genuine Labourite like McDonnell. Personally I think the job will fall to Maximum Jack as a sort-of caretaker.

Next “Labour” leader? Who gives a toss, to be honest?

That party lost the right to credibly claim the name “Labour” a while ago. And the shower of shite who would be lined up to replace Gordon “The Bankers’ Friend” Brown only go to demonstrate that fact.

LOL @ john reid.

I think there’s value in having Jon Cruddas, if he at least takes Labour to somewhere more sane. But to be honest I fear he might leave politics altogether once the New Labour crew start trying to exact revenge.

asquith – Purnell should go with him.

I’m not interested in the question – it’ll take a decade or more before I even consider voting for Labour again – at any level.

thomas, there are over 4 million that have stopped voting labour, over 200,000 people that have left the party itself, question is, how can we get the government not to govern us, but to govern for us – practically that means that for example we need to find ways to effect legislative change, like through private members bills, etc. MPs aren’t the only people we need to involve to build up campaigns, but they certainly can make a difference whether they are from labour, lib dems or the greens?

Ed Miliband the policy wonk? Have you guys heard him speak? Out of all the cabinet ministers, he is probably the best.

I said looks like…not sounds like. And yes i stood two foot from him once giving a very charmless and unfunny (despite his best efforts) speech. Alan Johnson would be great but for the fact that he’s already said more than once…

Cruddas, hahahhaha! No way are the rightwing of the party going to let a lefty dude like him get near power, Hilary Benn has more chance. Who else? Jack Straw as a care taker while in opposition I could see…

Sorry, but I have yet to hear an even vaguely convincing argument that actually shows what makes Cruddas a left-winger, other than that he says he is.

Ed Balls? Ed Milliband? James Purnell? Christ, it’s like being asked to choose one’s favourite body louse…

Quite. Chlamidia, Clap or Crabs.

If Cruddas stands, he will win. I doubt he would though, for personal reasons. You have no idea how many thousands of Labour people would mobilise for a genuine left of centre candidate like Cruddas.

Those that think Ed is an intellectual lightweight are very wrong.

Every event around the world is playing into the hands of the left, anything but a genuine leftward shift would mean being in the wilderness for a long time.

Joe you’re bang on with that last sentence – but it’s up to us to take society back, it won’t be handed to us on a plate, the empty and often dangerous narratives that New Labour have created to look tough (advocating British jobs for British workers, a muscular approach to get people into work, playing off the white versus black working class) are actually playing into the far right’s hands – that’s probably one of the most disgraceful legacies New Labour will leave.

I really don’t think James Purnell, not least because he’s got it into his head that being disliked by the Labour Party means you’re definately doing a good job. I presume this comes from his time working for Tony Blair but at least Blair had a love-hate relationship with the party, Purnell’s got more of a hate-hatehatehatehatehatearrrrggghhhhatehatehateohmigodihateyousomuchwhywontyoujustcurlupanddiehatehatehate thing going on. I actually think Johnson would be dead good, appears to know something about running things, had a life beyond Westminster, incredibly sensible and, crucially, unlike both Millibands & Balls he isn’t a massive walking piece of human weird. Beyond Johnson… Denham maybe? I guess Harman might not be a total disaster.

If Harman wins it will be a great success story for equal opportunities. The useless are just as capable as the competent at rising to power in politics.A victoy by Harman will prove we are governed by a political class who are only interested in themselves as described by Peter Oborne.

I agree to an extent Noel but the fact remains in a year or so there will be a general election, using FPTP and either Labour or the Tories will form a Government. The idea that a genuine left wing alternative could pose a threat to the status quo is, as you would acknowledge, fanciful. In fact, if Labour lose there is a bigger chance of this happening. That’s why, however limited, however flawed the Labour party is, having a change of leader may be significant in helping on the way to taking society back.

Sorry, but I have yet to hear an even vaguely convincing argument that actually shows what makes Cruddas a left-winger, other than that he says he is.

Compared to Purnell he’s a revolutionary socialist.

40. Different Duncan

Depends how things go at the next General Election.

Conservative landslide: Jon Cruddas to start the repair-work and win back the grassroots.

Conservative small majority: someone more centrist… I suspect Harman.

Every so often, I have the same nightmare about “Our new leader – please welcome Comrade Hazel”…

Harman or Straw would be a holding move but would keep things ‘steady’ for a year or two. Cruddas is the only current MP that I can imagine inspiring me to join the party.

If the Tories in 96/97 are a fair analogy, the next Labour PM may well not be an MP (or even a PPC) yet…

Ooh I can think of a PPC who would be up to it, but you’re right, it’s all speculating and if we have to rely on the ifs or buts of who will be our PM in 4 years time, we probably ought to think about how we can organise now to get the policies we want actually implemented – not pray and hope for the current or range of prospective leaders to do it for us…

The crucial thing isn’t “who”.

It’s “when”.

Three timings occur: before the next GE (Brown gets promoted upstairs to some global economy thing), just after the next GE, and a few years after the GE.

If after the next GE, it’ll be under two circumstances.

1) Tory victory, either marginal or large. If large, the leader needs to be a rebuild the base/realign the party type. If small (and I’m including the most likely minority Govt a la ’74 here), the leader needs to be a believable alternative PM, but not horribly tainted by the really egregiously bad policies (ID cards, Iraq, the whole “police state” set of policies) in order to realistically fight the next GE.

2) Hung parliament, in which Labour could go into coalition with the Lib Dems (I’m assuming a Labour/Tory grand coalition is out of the question, even though I personally don’t think it is).

Brown would have to go under such circumstances, and whoever comes in wouldn’t necessarily be Prime Minister (Vince Cable as a compromise First Lord of the Treasury anyone?), but would need to have the respect of the Labour cabinet, but be able to believably dump the insanities of late term Labour.

Alternatively, Labour could win the next GE. Brown would likely go mid to late the same Parliament, unless something weird happens.

Basically, the next leader is unlikely to be decided under the current political conditions, and the conditions will determine the choice much more than personalities of the current cabinet will. If it’s under option 2 above, then it’d need to be someone acceptable to Clegg/Cable. That rules out a fair few people straight away.


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  1. Liberal Conspiracy

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