The Labour Leadership contest has been an absolute bore-fest for those of us not in the Labour Party; similar, I should imagine, for non-supporters in any leadership election. However I have been interested in the media coverage, debates and focus groups which have provided the electorate (which covers Labour Members and Trade Unionists) with a great deal of information.
Of course, my original choice was the current Shadow Home Secretary Alan Johnson, whose assured, confident and humorous Commons speeches have shown a man very relaxed with not standing for the leadership. I am glad he didn't stand, but wonder if he even intends to stand for election to the Shadow Cabinet? Anyway, back to the rest ...
Diane Abbott, the "great communicator" has fallen flat in my view. As a dinosaur leftie we all knew she wasn't going to win, but I expected her to blow the contest wide open. I doubt she will even in these late stages. The two Milibands are just b-o-r-i-n-g; David has history involving a banana that may well haunt him for a long time and his admission that he drinks beer by the half-pint is his "baseball cap" moment (copyright, W.Hague). Ed on the otherhand comes across in a kind of nerd-trying-to-be-groovy kind of way. That leaves the two people that have really impressed me the most in this contest.
There is Ed Balls, who scrapped home in his Morley seat at the election, the most loyal commander left in the Brown bunker. He has shown himself to be a bulldog and would be an opportunistic fighter for Labour in opposition; just what they need in many ways. However despite this he doesn't look like the next Prime Minister. He may well have secured himself the Shadow Home Secretary position as a reward for having such a good leadership campaign.
And so to Andy Burnham - the frontline candidate whom we knew least about before this election. He's impressed me as the man who speaks in normal language and with a normal tone of voice. He represents his home constituency and has been loyal through-and-through. He has been leading the debate with ideas (not that I agree with them, of course, but at least he's brave enough to put them forward). He seems at ease, handles pressure well and has stayed above the Mili-spats going on. I am impressed and would be much more concerned if he led Labour than any of the others.
Having said that - to be frank I don't think any of them look like election winners. One Labour activist said to me at the count on Thursday that when Hague fought Clarke and IDS fought Clarke, they prayed for the leader most likely to screw up the Tories. Was I, he asked, doing the same for Labour? No, I replied, whoever wins the Labour crown then Cameron is still sure to win the next election. For us, it's a win-win-win-win-win situation. But if Labour activists were to take any advice from an old Tory lag like me, to make the best fist of the next parliament - it has to be Andy Burnham.