How Should Labour Party Members Choose the Next Leader?

Antonio Dorileo

Labour Member Antonio Dorileo on how best to decide between Cooper, Kendall, Corbyn and Burnham

Ballot papers will be going out in the coming days to hundreds of thousands of Labour Party members, supporters and affiliates. But what criteria should they have at the forefront of their mind when casting their votes for the next leader of the Labour Party?

Here are some of the main elements I will be considering when making my choice:

Do they have excess baggage?

It may be my inbuilt Labour paranoia, but you can bet the Tories already have a dirty dossier on each potential leader and their every transgression since birth, and beyond. Labour voters should have this in mind and think about choosing the leader with the least possible baggage. Cameron and others have frequently shown they are happy when questioned to fire back that they “refuse to answer your question until you tell us about X”. It’s a great tactic that not only lets them off the hook, but completely diverts attention on to their opponent’s failing.

This ‘dead cat strategy’ – designed by the Australian Conservative election adviser Lynton Crosby – has proved very useful. The Tories will be ready and willing to throw a dead cat onto the table at any moment, so that everyone is talking about the dead cat, and not the thing they don’t want you talking about.

Let’s not help them along and give them an armoury of dead cats to throw onto the table.

How clear is their message?

One of the key reasons I think Labour did not win the last election was a lack of clarity in our messaging. Confused and contradictory announcements made us look like we weren’t ready for government and didn’t know what we stood for.

We are abolishing non-doms! But not completely.

We will renationalise the railways! But through a new public body that can compete with private firms to bid for franchises.

We will not work with the SNP! But we’ll probably need to.

These and other announcements ended up raising more questions, gave the Conservatives an opening for attack, and saw us spending more time clarifying what we meant, rather than challenging the Tories.

Can they unify the Party?

Labour has strength in being a broad church. However we can sometimes lack the discipline shown by the Conservatives (don’t they seem awfully unified on Europe?). Labour therefore needs a skilful leader who can bring everyone together and marshal our combined efforts to fighting the common enemy (no, not Blair!). Only in being united can we really win the next election confidently.

Do they look like a Prime Minister?

To me, this is one of the most important considerations in choosing a leader. It’s also why I think the British public didn’t vote Labour in 2015. I lost count of the number of times I told friends and family that if you just listen to what Ed Miliband has to say, you’ll be inspired to vote for a Labour Government.

But they never got that far. They thought he looked and sounded a bit nerdy and unprepared, whilst across from him was bullish, confident, pumped-up Cameron. They couldn’t imagine seeing Miliband outside Downing Street waving to jubilant crowds having just won the Election, or meeting Obama and other world leaders at a G20 summit.

I know it’s superficial and a symptom of our Presidential-style personality politics, but the leader needs to look like a Prime Minister to become one.

In the end winning power is the ultimate goal. Because only when we do so can Labour really make a difference and implement the ideas we have. Standing on the sidelines is fine for some, but it’s not for me.

Antonio Dorileo is a Senior Account Executive at PLMR and is a seasoned Labour campaigner. He will be casting his first preference in the Labour Leadership Election for Yvette Cooper.

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