Picking up the pieces
It’s nearly over folks. A leadership contest that has felt suspiciously like a not-really-wanted sally into a purple haze version of The Never Ending Story is almost done – btw by my reckoning, from declaration of the contest to declaration of result, this contest will have lasted 98 days (99 if its announced on Saturday), that is a long time. I therefore think I can confidently say that I speak for a large proportion of us all when I say thank the heavens it is nearly over – it has been too long and stretched over the political off-season we have not even had much comic relief from the opposition.
So, when the dust settles where will we be? Right from the get-go I will say I find this election impossible to call. It is probably no secret who I want to win but in terms of who I think will actually win I find it impossible to say. One of the main reasons for this is that I would say that in terms of numeracy of online support I would call it as a clear two-horse race between Anne Marie Waters and John Rees-Evans. However, as we all well know, the bulk of this electorate is not online or particularly active online; this makes it impossible to use online support as a realistic predictor. I do feel it will be a ‘change candidate’ that wins. A particularly brutal electoral pounding is unlikely to create a viable mood for a continuity candidate.
The brutality of the electoral mangling on-top of a stormy pre-election period means that the amount of bitterness and bile we have seen is natural and even, to a degree, healthy. Put simply, leadership contests should be a vehicle for us all to blow-off a little steam. Several factors have spiced things up beyond the norm. Certainly, whether you love or loath her, you cant fail to acknowledge the polarising nature of Ms Waters candidacy and that has probably brought the media spotlight to bear on this contest more than it would have otherwise done given our last set of electoral results. When the Sunday after the Saturday of conference comes and our new leader has been installed they are certainly going to have a substantially full ‘IN’ tray.
Two other things contribute to this possibility. I personally think this will be a low turnout election. Demoralised and atomised our remaining membership may well not vote in their droves. Also, the number of candidates means the winning number of votes and margin could be painfully low. This will mean that our new leader will have a wafer-thin mandate and be easy early prey for challengers who wont unite and sense the prospect of forcing another contest. It would therefore be a shrewd political move for them to immediately reach out to opposing camps when it comes to appointments.
It is also possible that a new leader will be hit with a wave of protest resignations – rumours this may afflict a Waters coronation are rife and well-publicised but it is worth noting that other candidates are not immune, Peter Whittle has been threatened in a similar manner. Incidentally, just to balance things out, I have heard rumours that letters of resignation have been drafted for the eventuality Anne Marie DOESNT win as well – however, if Anne Marie wins the first 48 hours could determine how long that particular revolution lasts, so her confession that she “doesnt know” what she will do if she does win, made on Newsnight, doesn’t bode particularly well.
Saying something is coming to an end is another way of saying we are at the start of a new beginning and we may have to face the uncomfortable reality that will be the case with this leadership contest. Whomever wins will receive a baptism of fire. Picking up the pieces will be the first test the new leader will face.