Alex Hilton: Labour's contest lacks real verve

After the latest post-election thrill ride, which has involved cuts, coalitions and the 1922 committee, the Labour leadership contest is proving to be something of a damp squib by comparison.

Alex Hilton
Alex Hilton

It is almost as though the candidates were taken by surprise and weren't ready to put themselves forward. A bundle of websites was quickly cobbled together, the most cutting-edge element in the process being the use of email list software.

Front-runner David Miliband's launch on the steps of the House of Commons was rather a mystifying affair that involved the Shadow Foreign Secretary being surrounded by a largely anonymous band of MP supporters. It all seemed a bit of a letdown, particularly in light of that morning's endorsement on the Today programme by big beast Alan Johnson.

At the time of writing, only the senior Miliband has accrued the necessary nominations from MPs, and that is part of the problem. Labour MPs are more interested in being seen to have backed the winning candidate rather than in taking on the responsibility to nominate the best potential leader for their party. They are waiting to see who is likely to win before they back a horse.

The entry into the race of serial rebel Diane Abbott has been the only event worthy of note in the leadership contest, and Labour MPs may well nominate her - even if they don't want her to win - simply in order to have a competition that isn't all white and all male.

None of this, of course, portrays a Labour Party to the public that seeks to inspire. Instead, the current state of affairs simply illustrates a body of self-interested and pedestrian MPs.

If we want to present the United Kingdom with a great leader - and particularly a great leader who is a member of the Labour Party - we may well need to consider a better system for picking them in the future.

- Alex Hilton is a Labour parliamentary candidate and founder of political blog Labourhome.

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