Another week, another Labour leadership meeting.Â This time round was different for two reasons: as it was my own local party I could actually vote this time, and there was a hustings first.Â Oh.Â And there is a prog rock angle too.Let’s deal with the most exciting part first – the prog rock.
When I turned up at the Hawth I was looking at the posters of forthcoming attractions and amidst all the details of musicals, tribute bands, and musicals based on tribute bands that seem to constitute modern middlebrow theatre fare, there was a poster for something called “The Anderson Wakeman Project 360” which turns out to be a 20-dateÂ tour by Jon Anderson and Rick Wakeman (i.e. 20% of the classic line-up of Yes) with Crawley the second date on the tour.
I know I won’t be able to resist it, and yet the tickets are Â£32.50 each. Eek.Â Don’t suppose I can persuade the local papers to hire me for a day as a reviewer, so it looks like I’ll have to treat myself as a slightly belated birthday present.Â Brilliant to have two performers of such stature playing in Crawley though.
Everything else was going to be an anti-climax after seeing that, but the meeting went very well.Â It was an unusual hustings in that none of the candidates was there, but four of them sent advocates to speak for them.Â David Miliband had Ivan Lewis MP, Ed Balls had Sarah McCarthy-Fry, Andy Burnham had Cllr Keith Dibble from Hampshire and Ed Miliband had Tom Simons.
Not sure exactly who Tom is.Â He is either a party worker or an ex-party worker who has joined Ed’s team.Â Nice enough bloke though and he did a good job considering he is not as accustomed to public speaking as an MP an ex-MP or a councillor.
It really is a shame that nobody from Diane Abbott’s team was available, but some of the other surrogates did actually make some points in her favour.Â Specifically when discussing the past, one of the speakers did point out that Diane Abbott is the only candidate totally free to criticise past mistakes, having not been part of the cabinets that went to war with Iraq, messed up the 10% tax etc. etc.
For me that summed up the spirit of the event and the whole contest so far.Â There was a lot of respect and civility from all sides: none of the surrogates attacked each other or the other candidates.Â The candidates themselves seem to have refrained from personal attacks and this can only be a good thing – they will all have to work together when it is all over after all.Â The personal relationship between Blair and Brown and their followers really poisoned the party for a decade so I’m glad to see a more constructive atmosphere with this lot and I hope it continues.
What we do not need is a competition like they have in the US for presidential candidates where the front runners spend months providing ammunition for their opponents to use in the actual election.
All the speakers who were there did a difficult job well.Â It can’t be easy having to speak on somebody else’s behalf, making sure you don’t misrepresent them, and making it clear where you are offering a personal opinion or something that you know your preferred candidate believes.Â They also all made good points in favour of their candidates, making it really hard to know who to prefer.
This should mean that whoever wins we will end up not only with a capable leader, but one with a good team around them – as long as they can see this through to the end on good terms.
The result?Â David Miliband got the nomination on the third round of counting preferences, with his brother coming second.Â I think I would have been happy to see any of them nominated though.