Friday, June 15, 2007

Hazel's campaign

Hazel always gets people to stand on boxes before being photographed with her.

I've now voted in Labour’s deputy leadership contest. I didn't spend long considering it, and I’ve made my choice on fairly superficial factors (the candidates with the backers that I most identify with, the odd half-remembered policy position, a kremlinologist’s judgement on ministerial experience, etc).

And that’s the way things should be. It is - I would argue - the most responsible way for any voter to behave, and I doubt if most voters will have done more than engage with the superficial qualities of any of the candidates, even those that have attended any of the various hustings.

None of the candidates are in the position to be mandated about anything anyway, so it doesn’t really matter if I chose exactly the right or wrong candidate. Because of my relative uncertainty about their suitability (and I’m surely not alone in that), I’m certain that I’ll have no right to feel betrayed if a candidate that I’ve supported makes decisions that I don’t approve of.

Everyone else's misjudgements will even things out. The important thing is that there is an election. The quality of the policies in the manifestos aren’t even massively important either. The fact that they have conducted themselves in a conversational manner, and that they haven’t taken up positions that would make it difficult for Labour to govern is what matters.

I did, however, find the election literature interesting. Hazel Blears was never likely to come top of my list – she’s a roundhead, and I think that roundheads make an absolutely fundamental mistake about the nature of politics and government – one that I couldn’t endorse. I would very rarely vote for a candidate based upon specific policies, but misunderstanding the basics of democracy is another matter entirely.

So my initial instinct was to place Hazel in last-place (it’s one of those transferable vote systems). But Hazel’s literature went to town on who she was. It showed her out-and-about with people, and it attempted to communicate her essential character in a way that none of the other candidates would. The biography was detailed and it attempted to show us who she is, and how her background impacts upon the way she does her job.

Of all of the candidates, Hazel presented herself in the way that I think politicians should. Others concentrated on specific policy positions that they will unable to deliver upon, and that voters will be incapable of properly assessing.

I still didn’t give her my highest preference votes, but the way she presented herself made me think that the Roundheads – even though their understanding of representation is flawed – are the only ones who have even considered the matter in their campaign.

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