I have been trying to write this post for about three weeks now. Every time I sat down and put fingers to keyboard, something distracted me – new articles/situations that seemed more interesting to write about than the original subject; cake; teaching my nephew how to crash his trains; more cake; BBC Parliament.
In the end, I got so distracted by not remembering what I was meant to be writing about that I joined a gym. Which is why I’m writing this now, as a distraction not to go to the gym.
So it all worked out nicely in the end, really.
So, this epic journey started around three weeks ago, when I took time off work to save everyone from the likely event of me becoming insane through lack of sleep, relaxation and sitting around in PJs eating Jaffa Jakes.
Most people, when they book two weeks off work, just do exactly that. Possibly.
I’m not most people. Logistically, that would be very difficult. But mostly creepy.
No, I decided to traverse back to the Homeland to spend time with the family I very rarely get to see. And, very quickly, decided to do other things with my time after teaching a very intelligent three-year-old how to crash his trains.
Because I’m cool like that.
And so, on a Sunday no less, at a time that I still believe shouldn’t exist on the weekend, I found myself on a train, reading Alastair Campbell’s “Prelude to Power” and taking the scenic route into enemy territory. Or, as others call it, Cardiff.
I went into the Welsh Labour Leader Hustings completely certain I had narrowed my choice down to two. And came out with a choice of three. And a half.
I can’t remember everything that went on – tho’ I did take notes – but a few things struck me.
Firstly, that everybody there was interested. In the candidates, in their answers, in the future of the Party. And that was pleasing. As a new member and somebody who knows all too well how the press and public perceived the ‘demise’ of the party, it felt good to be somewhere where those notions couldn’t be further from the truth.
It also differed from other Hustings I’d caught online as it was very… lively. Us Taffs aren’t ones to stick to the rules, and I think that only made for a better atmosphere. There is nothing more tedious than seeing the same questions asked over and over, hearing the same answers and falling into such a catatonic state that you inadvertently get up and give everybody’s closing statements for them, since you’ve heard them so many times, perhaps throwing in a few more jokes to keep yourself amused.
I came out more confused than before, but I considered this a good thing. And is also why, if possible, everybody should get out and meet candidates/go to Hustings. I guarantee you they are not what you think they are like when filtered through streams or media articles or radio interviews.
Since then, other things have happened: Michael Gove has kept me endlessly amused with his apologies, lists, and inability to argue effectively against Ed Balls; Andy Burnham’s quite passionate defence of the NHS on Question Time; Ed Miliband somehow managing to not punch Andrew Neil in the face whilst on ‘This Week’, even though it would have meant the eternal gratitude of everyone who has ever sat through one of his ‘interviews’; and David Miliband and Mrs. Duffy (which sounds like a hilarious sitcom).
That’s not to mention the numerous ‘x is dropping out’, ‘y and z have fallen out’ stories that are being bandied about, no doubt to try and make what is otherwise a well-argued, well-mannered contest seem scandalous.
I have seen very few people abuse those running against their candidate, and this pleases me. Because very often people forget the difference between an opinion and abuse – if you don’t want a certain candidate to win then point out why yours is stronger, better, not launch into all the ‘bad’ things or flaws of others. It’s tedious, it’s unsportsmanlike and, quite frankly, it makes you look like a dick and puts others off voting.
Because you are doing exactly what the opposition have been doing since before they took up Government, and why should we make their jobs any easier by undermining and weakening our own party?
If the generalisations are to be believed, we should all be following this handy guide:
- If you want someone who could be slotted into the role of PM tomorrow? David Miliband’s your man.
- Want a person who inspires, who appeals to the younger generation and could rally the troops, as it were? Back Ed Miliband.
- Want somebody who is passionate about the causes they fight for? Can articulate the anger felt by many and do something about it? Step up Ed Balls.
- If you want to see a real grassroots, working peoples’ candidate take up the job, back Burnham.
- And if you want a woman in charge of the party, then make Diane Abbott your first preference.
But this isn’t enough to base your vote on. Who do YOU most agree with? Yes, you, the one who gets to vote and has a brain that you’re entirely in control of. Unless conspiracy theories are real.
I’ll confess to having been stuck in that horrific place – do I vote with my head or my heart? Do I go for the candidate I think best represents me, or the candidate who best represents the party?
[I actually asked my aforementioned nephew’s advice on this matter, based on the campaign leaflets I took home. He was just as undecided as me – first he wanted the “BOY!” (Andy Burnham), who then was abandoned for “PINK!” (Ed Miliband and his tie), before finally settling on Ed Balls, because he plays with children in schools.]
But then, thinking about it – why does this matter? Because we are not the Borg. If everybody votes for who they think represents them best, the right candidate will win; the one who represents the majority.
Because as some wonderful people said on twitter: we are all Labour anyway, right?
Because if our candidate doesn’t win? We’ll support the winner anyway, because that is what is right.
So maybe it is time to start thinking for ourselves. Maybe we should ignore the press, and the Mrs. Duffys of the world, and start thinking about what we want in a leader and a future Prime Minister. Maybe it’s time to show that, as people and as a party, we can change the way things go.
And maybe, just maybe, on this dreary Monday morning, I’ve made up my mind*…