Alex Hilton: Labour hopefuls fail to impress

With Labour and trade union members receiving their ballot papers, it's time to turn again to the Labour leadership election. In short, all the candidates are better than they were three months ago, but none are exciting leaders.

Alex Hilton
Alex Hilton

David Miliband started well by looking prime ministerial. But instead of seeking to inspire, he has kept to a risk-averse comfort zone. His innovation has been the training of 1,000 'community activists', although no-one is quite clear what they are for.

David's brother Ed has courted the left of the party to the point that even the thoughtful leftist MP for Dagenham, Jon Cruddas, has abandoned him in favour of the more Blairite sibling. Cruddas carries with him a strong personal support base and his endorsement of David may prove to be crucial.

Ed's campaign has been painful to watch. While increasing his support steadily - and he may yet win - his followers seem unable to recognise that he isn't that good a speaker, doesn't think on his feet well and has a TV persona that comes across as unstable. When interviewed with Justice Secretary Ken Clarke earlier in the campaign, Ed's ranting drove Ken to tell him to 'take a breath', a simple line that made him look like an overexcited puppy.

Ed Balls, despite the possibility he may come last, has improved the most. He has done a serious job of opposing the Government, though it should be a concern that he is a better shadow secretary for education than he was in Government. Ed has given up hope of winning the leadership and seems focused on improving his profile with Labour MPs so he gets a good vote in the shadow cabinet elections.

Andy Burnham appears to have had that as his goal from the outset and his campaign seems to have been one of positioning. Diane Abbott has been unable to respond to Ed Miliband's encroachment into left-wing territory.

The candidates don't realise that merely winning will only give them a two-year tenure at the top before another contest. Increasingly, it seems that all that Labour will get from this election is a caretaker leader.

Alex Hilton is a political communications adviser and former Labour parliamentary candidate.

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