Many commentators in the media have questioned the wisdom of holding a leadership contest so soon after the election defeat, claiming there is no point having a leadership contest, without first undergoing a thorough analysis of the reasons for the defeat.
Some commentators have gone even further; claiming that not only is there no point in the leadership contest, there is no point in the Labour Party, as the election result showed that Labour has lost its way; lost its purpose, its identity, its core supporters and its relevance.
The Leadership hustings in Cardiff proved all those commentators wrong.
Whilst the election result was undoubtedly a huge blow, the hustings showed that Winston Churchill’s advice; to “never let a good crisis go to waste”, has been taken to heart by the Labour Party.
Coming off the back of an election defeat, the leadership contest has forced us to really think about what our party stands for.
The contest has brought a huge response from Party members; at meetings, hustings and on social media sites. Members have very clearly shown that they are not lacking in vision or purpose.
Party members know why they joined the Labour Party; they are unwavering in their belief and are demanding that their representatives in parliament demonstrate the same levels of conviction and commitment. This has forced the candidates to clearly define their vision of the Labour Party; what it is, and what it should be. Under the fierce scrutiny of dedicated, and at times, angry Party members, the candidates have been held to account; forced to prove their values and their worth; to prove their right to vie for the leadership of the Party. Faced with this ‘trial by fire’, the candidates have been forced to raise their game, to become the best that they can be.
Some commentators have claimed that the leadership contest is uninspiring; if that was ever true before, it is not the case now. What we saw in Cardiff; was four strong candidates, at the peak of their powers.
The candidates have been forced to carefully consider their positions on a huge range of issues, to the extent which, they each now have something close to a fully formed programme for the Party.
The contest has ensured that the candidates are ‘firing on all cylinders’, not just intellectually, but also physically and emotionally. The contest has demanded energy, commitment, conviction and passion from the candidates. In short, it has demanded that they become (if they were not already) the kind of politicians that we all want them to be.
At the hustings, the candidates not only showed their passion and commitment; they also all very clearly demonstrated that they share ‘real’ Labour values. Whilst their programmes may differ, their goal is the same- a fairer and better society.
At a time when disillusionment with ‘career’ politicians is rife, the contest has shown us that we have a team of talented leaders who share genuine Labour values.
The contest has shown us that we have leaders that we can believe in.
The contest has shown members how strong our team is; shown us that they deserve our support; shown us that the Labour Party is very much alive and well.
Not only that; the contest has also shown us that despite the occasional angry clashes of their supporters on social media; the candidates are very much part of the same team- they are all on the same side. This was clearly shown at the hustings by Liz Kendall and Jeremy Corbyn, who, despite their seemingly (or supposedly) opposing views, were very respectful and friendly to each other; often seen conferring on various questions and points throughout the event.
Not only were the candidates respectful; the audience were too. There was no heckling or booing, only intense concentration, and spontaneous outbursts of applause.
I was proud to be in the audience in Cardiff- proud of the Party’s MPs and proud of its members.
The hustings showed us that not only are the candidates very much part of the same team; it showed that that we are all on the same side. Regardless of which candidate we may favour; we all share the same values and goals:
We all want a fairer society.
We all want more equal opportunities.
We all want to take the fight to the Tories.
We all want to win!
So, what became very obvious at the hustings; was that, irrespective of who becomes our next leader, we should unite behind them and give them our full support, because they have all proved that they are strong candidates, who we can all be proud of. They are all ‘true’ Labour MPs, who share our values and goals.
We all know who the real enemy is- the Tories, so it’s time to focus all our energies on fighting them, instead of each other.
We all want the same thing.
We’re all on the same side.
- That is what the hustings showed us.
So, when considering the questions: what is the point of the leadership contest or of the Labour Party itself, the hustings provided all the answers. We can see that the contest has already been a great success:
It has energised MPs and members.
It has rejuvenated, revitalized and renewed the Party.
- And that is what I saw at the hustings!
I saw a party that was sure of itself:
Sure of its values
Sure of its purpose
Sure in its determination to take on the challenge of winning back voters
Sure in its determination to fight against the unfair and unjust policies of the Tories
At the hustings, I saw a party whose MPs have real talent, drive and conviction.
I saw a party that has a huge, ever-growing, dedicated and deeply committed membership.
I saw a party that I can be proud of.
At the hustings in Cardiff, I saw a party that can win.