Commentary and opinion on national and regional politics by Seema Malhotra

Friday, 14 May 2010

The election - just over or just beginning?

Someone said to me today - "But the election's over!" - to which I replied, "Nonsense, it's only just beginning!" And of course it is; the next election is what is really beginning with the leadership election kicking off this week. For a party that has "lost" an election (though I think we came second, and the Lib Dems third) we are in remarkably good spirits. Usually after a campaign the party steps back, takes a few weeks off, winds down. Not so this time. I've never known us more fired up to get on the #labourdoorstep and keep talking. The doorstep election has changed some of the culture of our campaigning for the better - a rebalancing from the technology driven hard targetting to a re-introduction of the importance of the personal touch.
Just this evening I was talking to a member in the West Midlands - as intrigued as me as to the positive spirit and fierce sense of fight back we are experiencing. Perhaps this is helped by the leadership election, which is giving us something positive and productive to focus on, and a lens through which to have a conversation about where the British people are at, and how connected our politics is to them - both in terms of substance and style.
So whilst it is agonising for me to see David Miliband and Ed Miliband go against each other, both of whom I admire, respect and know, they are doing our party a huge service in starting to lay out terms of the debate and a vision for the future. David kicked off his campaign this week, with a photoshoot in Westminster, and a tour of seats Labour has lost. Ed Miliband kicks off tomorrow, with a speech at the now sold-out Fabian post-election conference. A straw poll, totally unscientific, that I did this evening of where people currently stand gave a remarkably consistent picture of the election being wide open. Seeming to reflect the election polls to some extent, we're seeing a large number of "don't knows" in the party selectorate - members are waiting to be inspired and wooed, and included. David seems to have the lead in terms of profile and sense of heavyweight, Ed in terms of his ability to connect and communicate, and of course policy mastery with authorship of the manifesto. Exciting times. #ProudtobeLabour.