Right lets catch up on this leadership election thing.
There are a number of reasons why I’ve been feeling disenchanted with the whole leadership election.
Firstly, it doesn’t seem that long ago that I was sitting watching contenders for the party leadership competing for my vote in the last contest, none of whom could I muster much enthusiasm for.
I voted for Ming. I don’t regret that choice, I believe it was the right decision. But I voted for him rather more in the spirit of choosing the least worst option than I would have liked.
Now I am in almost exactly the same situation, having to choose between two very similar candidates, neither of whom I feel all that enthusiastic about. I have friends in the party who are passionately in favour of one candidate or the other, but to be honest, neither of them does it for me.
After the rather traumatic few years that the party has had, and with the number of significant difficulties we are facing, I want to be inspired. I want a leader I can feel confident in “marching to the sound of gunfire” behind. I want inspiration, and I’m not getting it.
I also want to vote for a woman, and I’m not getting that chance either.
Ming and the media
Secondly, I am still feeling quite bruised over what happened to Ming. As I’ve said I did vote for him, although without enthusiasm, and I believe that was the right choice at the time. His leadership pleased me and disappointed me in equal measure. I think his achievements, particularly in party organisation, have been significantly underestimated by most members. But it is clear that he never established himself on the national stage as he should have done, and it became more and more obvious that he wasn’t going to be given the chance to put that right. I had hoped that we would get “Scary Ming”. We didn’t. At his best we got “Angry Ming”, I think particularly of his role in the conference debate on trident. At his worst we just got “Grumpy Ming”.
But whatever his strengths and weaknesses, whatever the good and bad in his record, what annoys is that his leadership was ended by the media. It is entirely to his credit that he faced up to the reality of the situation he was in and walked. What I am sure frustrates him, as it frustrates me, is that his leadership became untenable not because of his policy or strategic decisions, not because of his competence, abilities, or indeed sobriety, but because he just doesn’t look good on television.
Now I am in danger here of appearing naive. I want us to look for a range of qualities in those who lead our political parties. Knowledge, wisdom, energy, compassion and so on. Yes we need great communicators. But I do not want the most important quality, indeed it seems at times the only required quality, to be that they look good on telly. But it seems that I am to be disappointed. I kind of knew in theory how dominant the media is in our politics, but what happened to Ming has forced me to face up to the reality of its dominance. And I don’t like it.
Thirdly, I am feeling disenchanted because of the consequences of that reality. We need to choose a new leader. Given our experience with Ming, what qualities should we be looking for. Obviously, the answer is to decide which one of them looks best on telly.
Which of them is prettiest?
Hopefully, the new leader will have other qualities. But it is not essential. The key thing is, if they don’t look good on telly, they’re screwed before they’ve even begun.
People say we shouldn’t have a beauty contest. They are wrong, that is precisely what we need to have.
But don’t worry! That is what we are having. With the candidates being so similar and the debate so far being so inwardly focussed (or so it seems to me) a beauty contest is what we’ve got.
So, yes. I am disenchanted with the leadership election.
This content was originally posted on my old Process Guy blog.