Martin Bright

The Labour Party Must Look to the Next Generation Now

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I have just watched the last images of the election campaign on the Ten O'Clock News on the BBC. David Cameron was surrounded by some seriously off-putting party apparatchiks (why not choose some of the perfectly presentable and normal-looking young people for CCHQ rather than these awful gargoyles?), meanwhile Gordon Brown was struggling to fill a room and Nick Clegg was being mobbed. 

I remember a Labour spin doctor (OK it was Damian McBride) telling me that he knew Gordon could never win a beauty contest against David Cameron. He didn't seem to have twigged that modern elections are beauty contests - that is one of the reasons Tony Blair did so well against the considerably less beautiful John Major, William Hague and Michael Howard.

Of course this has been a beauty contest. People vote with their guts in a general election. Beyond the tribal voters they will generally vote for the more presentable party leader because, the person they will be least embarrassed to admit they have voted for. 

The polling from the live TV debates seemed to suggest that the British public preferred two nicely turned out young men to the old trooper. The Labour Party's mistake was to offer up someone so easy to associate with the "old politics". 

It will be clear tomorrow that the Labour Party should have never allowed Gordon Brown to become leader of the party. If it loses badly it will only have itself to blame for failing to replace such an electoral liability when it had the chance. This electoral campaign has been dominated by the ageing patriarchs of the New Labour project and they have been found wanting. Prescott, Campbell, Mandelson and Straw have been too prominent. They need to be swept aside if the Labour Party is ever to recover. 

The question is whether the younger generation has the balls to seize control. They had their chance when James Purnell went over the top. I really wonder whether they have it in them.