The drama around the election of Labour’s new leader yesterday reminded me of a reality TV show final. Months of build up where the contenders have to perform in front of different audiences across the country (I know the X Factor tour happens after the show has ended but this is obviously a variation!). Front runners being tracked on a daily basis and their odds being continually re-assessed throughout the race. An outsider who everyone secretly wants to do better than they dare say. This time we can add sibling rivalry to the mix.
And then we have the finale with the one by one elimination of contenders until we have a cliff hanger final result (Ed beats his brother by 1.3% thanks largely to trade union votes). Finally, the climax – the winner must perform to his adoring fans. The only difference here is that he’s unlikely to get the number 1 Christmas single.
So here we have it – politics for the reality TV generation.
Given the scale of the challenges we face and dramatic cuts that are underway in our public services with their impact on communities up and down the country, we need a credible opposition party with a viable agenda that holds the Government to account. We urgently need a credible alternative.
I understand the need for Labour to have a democratically elected leader. But watching yesterday’s events unfold (and I was hooked) made me uneasy. This isn’t the X Factor or Britain’s Got Talent. The qualities of leadership required for this challenge are truly significant. Developing an alternative vision and policy agenda while re-building your organisation and winning the confidence of the public requires extraordinary leadership capability. Most of us who have been involved in leadership development and succession planning know that this is complex and difficult. What we witnessed yesterday appeared much too random and we should be concerned irrespective of our political point of view.