Labour’s big election questions

Media interest in the Labour party’s internal election plans grows; now Paul Waugh of the Standard is weighing in (and borrowing heavily from the blog of national executive committee member Peter Kenyon by the looks of it).

The key issues are: the elections for Labour’s new shadow cabinet (voted on by the parliamentary Labour party, 258 MPs) and the nature and timing of the leadership and deputy leadership election(s). The Labour NEC will tomorrow decide whether to have a) a summer leadership election or b) one which lasts till September, with the new leader announced at party conference.

Let’s be clear on one thing: elections for Labour’s shadow cabinet – pace Guido Fawkes – are going to happen pretty soon, almost certainly before even an early leadership contest. Party rules say there should be one as soon as practical after a general election. So if leadership candidates want to use a shadow cabinet position as a soapbox, they’d better get canvassing.

As for the leadership, Waugh reports:

“More than a few activists are wary of any attempt to fast-track the process, as are Jon Cruddas and Ed Balls. John Prescott has weighed in and said the party should play the “long game”.

Not just activists, a good deal of MPs too want to see a leadership contest that lasts till conference. And at least one union (see here). Fabian head honcho Sunder Katwala makes the reasoned case for a long contest here.

Plenty of backers of David Miliband, on the other hand, want to see a leader in place by July.

But here’s an extra dimension to the debate. I’m told that the Shadow Cabinet last Wednesday was asked by Harriet Harman for their views on the timetable. The overwhelming message from those gathered in the unfamiliar surroundings of the Shad Cab room in the Commons was this: let’s not hang around and let’s get on with this as soon as possible.”

I can also reveal that Tony Lloyd, who as outgoing chair of the PLP was the influential linkman between Brown and the backbenches, is in favour of a quick contest. He tells me: “Let’s get the leader in situ. We’re talking about two months – that’s longer than a general election contest. If leadership contestants can’t put forward a vision of Labour’s role [in that time]… Most of us would sooner go to the conference not for coronation of a new leader but as part of a campaigning process.” There was, he said, no need to wait till September.

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