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Monday, 18 May 2015

Public to play key role in Labour leadership election

The election of a new Labour leader will be played out before the public, Harriet Harman will declare today. Labour’s acting leader will pledge an “open” contest and will reveal party chiefs have already begun talks with broadcasters about staging hustings with members of the public given a key role. In a speech at the party’s HQ, marking the start of Labour’s fightback, Harriet Harman is expected to announce:
  • The public - not just Labour members - will be able to ask questions of leadership and deputy leadership candidates at hustings events.
  • Hustings will be staged in the towns and suburbs where Labour hoped to win in the general election, but where the party failed to make inroads.
  • Labour members will be encouraged to bring supporters of other parties, or non-voters, to hear speeches by the contenders.

Harriet Harman is expected to say: “As we conduct this debate, as we elect our leader and deputy leader, we must have the public in the forefront of our minds. We must let the public in. Into the process and into our minds as we make the decisions about who is our next leader and how we go forward. So we are going to start that with how we do the leadership elections.

Harriet Harman is expected to say Labour should not be ‘afraid’ of 'letting the public in’ and is expected to add: "Indeed if there is one thought that I think should drive the thinking of our members as we elect a new leadership team it is this - which of them has the best qualities and leadership skills most likely to win over the support of the public? Not the politically obsessed public, the people like us, but the people who don’t decide about their choice of MP And choice of government until they have to."

"We need to see this process as one that is not merely electing a new leader and deputy leader. But one that is helping to rebuild old connections and fashion new connections with a public that rejected us north and south." She is also expected to add.

Hustings should be different from the sort of 'cosy’ events - held at Westminster or in safe Labour seats - that have characterised the party’s leadership contests in the past, Harriet Harman will say. The 2010 Labour leadership contest was 'comradely and well organised’, but was too much 'within Labour’s comfort zone.’ Harriet Harman expected to add: "We were talking to ourselves. We have to look outwards and stress-test our candidates with the public."

She will add: "So I want to see party meetings where members bring non-members. Where someone who voted Labour brings along someone who voted Tory or SNP Or didn’t vote at all. And I want to see the contenders show how they make their case to those people. And I think we should let the public in on all of that."

"Let’s welcome non-supporters into our discussions too. Not to vote in our internal elections but to be a part of them. That’s why our hustings have got to be different. We need robust tough televised hustings which involve the public. We have begun talks with broadcasters about how we make these happen. We are very open and keen to make this work. As interim leader, I have one principle here - let the public in."

She is expected to say: "We cannot just hold hustings in our Labour heartlands - we have to go to areas where we didn’t win. Because ultimately we are electing the team that we think can lead not just the party but lead the country. And that must be our guiding thought. Last time our hustings were in front of Labour members and were in cities where Labour won. We must have those hustings now in towns and suburbs where Labour lost. We have to go back and ask local people from those areas to be brutally honest about what they think of us and what they want from us.”

Harriet Harman will be clear that Labour’s new leader and deputy leader will be the choice of the whole party - not just of one section of it. She will say: “We will have strict rules to ensure there is a level playing field for each one of the candidates. Last time the unions communicated directly with many of their members, sending them ballot papers with accompanying material only mentioning one candidate. There will be none of that this time. The Electoral Reform Society will send out individual ballot papers to each member of the electorate.