Reactions to deputy hustings show what could have been if left had more than one candidate in leader race
Yesterday the SKWAWKBOX attended both the leadership and deputy leadership hustings in Liverpool. The strongest impression the day left was this: the excitement is in the deputy contest.
During the morning session, the serious leadership candidates appeared unwilling to put too much of themselves on show, with both Rebecca Long-Bailey and Keir Starmer largely cautious in their statements and their responses to questions, while the format barred the audience from challenging trite or disingenuous answers.
The fact that the right had clearly drummed up as many of its supporters as it could to clap wildly for every rote response by its hopefuls couldn’t disguise just how drab and unconvincing they were.
Boycott the S*n – for now
Starmer, for example, went for an easy win by saying he wouldn’t be giving interviews to the S*n – but only for as long as the leadership contest lasts. Nobody was able to challenge him about what would happen after the contest – but the bet-hedging response he gave when a journalist asked him that later in the day would certainly have dampened the cheers at the hustings if anyone had been able to ask:
Well, let’s get to be leader first, and then you can come back and ask me again.
Of the others, Jess Phillips raised groans by claiming, in a series of me-centric answers, that Boris Johnson would be terrified to face her, while Thornberry hectored the audience and Nandy gave a competent performance but without much to say.
Deputies lead the way
But what a contrast in the deputy leader hustings, which had Richard Burgon and Dawn Butler speaking for the left, full of energy and pulling no punches – shining an unflattering light on the gaping lack of substance of Ian Murray and the staged smile and soundbites of Rosena Allin-Khan.
Favourite Angela Rayner started well but looked wooden by the end and was not helped by her position next to the animated and fluent Dawn Butler and the conviction of Richard Burgon.
Both Butler and Burgon garnered cheers from the crowd for their clear solidarity with members, with powerful comments on why they weren’t signing up to the Board of Deputy’s demands – and their closing statements captured the stand-out qualities of both:
As the deputy hustings closed, both Richard Burgon and Dawn Butler were thronged by well-wishers, with many members saying that they had changed their mind about how to vote as a result of what they had seen and heard. There was a palpable buzz about the whole event – and comments along the lines of ‘if only this was the leadership contest’ were common.
The SKWAWKBOX warned during the parliamentary nominations phase that the leadership race would be the poorer – and members less inspired – by having only one left candidate on offer.
The proof of that was in Saturday’s hustings, as the deputy contest showed how members can be energised and enthused by a battle of styles and conviction among candidates who are willing to say and to stand up for what they believe in and who have been consistent in their commitment to the cause.
If any of the realistic leader candidates want to get close to the energy and sense of excitement that marked the deputy hustings, if they hope to create a buzz among the members and a sense of investment in the result, they have a distance to go and no time to waste in raising their game.
The SKWAWKBOX needs your support. This blog is provided free of charge but depends on the generosity of its readers to be viable. If you can afford to, please click here to arrange a one-off or modest monthly donation via PayPal or here for a monthly donation via GoCardless. Thanks for your solidarity so this blog can keep bringing you information the Establishment would prefer you not to know about.
If you wish to reblog this post for non-commercial use, you are welcome to do so – see here for more.