Our survey says…

by Stephen Tall on October 3, 2006

John Reid has at least stormed into the lead in one poll. Sadly for him it’s the one I’m running at m’other gaff asking who you think would be the best Labour leader from a Liberal Democrat perspective? (Ie, who will be worst for them, and best for us.)

Currently Dr Reid is in the enviable position, with 51%, of winning on the first ballot.

To be honest, I’m not sure how to read this verdict. (And not just because I’ve a sneaky suspicion some people might deliberately have voted for the person they thought would be best for them and worst for us.)

In one sense, I agree that – from a Lib Dem perspective – Dr Reid is the least likely to try and pitch his tent on our lawn. He doesn’t strike me as one of nature’s pluralists.

And while Labour home secretaries are for ever destined to be an easy target of liberal dismay, Dr Reid (like his predecessor-but-one, David Blunkett), seems to take strutting delight in trampling on freedoms to assert his macho credentials.

It is almost impossible to imagine the Lib Dems being able to contemplate any kind of electoral arrangement which propped up a minority Labour government led by Dr Reid.

However, that doesn’t mean I think Dr Reid will be the worst leadership option for Labour from a Labour perspective, for I’m pretty sure that a Reid win would strike fear into the Tories.

First, because a victory for an underdog is always harder to play. The Tories have had longer to think through their lines of attack on the heir-presumptive, Gordon Brown, many of which will be lapped up by the press.

But if he falters, the Tories will find themselves eclipsed by the attention-deficit disorder of our media, who would far prefer Dr Reid’s brazen novelty to Mr Brown’s grizzled staleness (and perhaps to Mr Cameron’s callow vacuity).

And, secondly, because there will be many among the Tory faithful who will ponder nervously the fact that the authoritarian Dr Reid speaks their kind of language more effectively than the ‘liberal’ Mr Cameron.This year, the Tories are beaming up conference delegates’ text messages onto the big podium screens. One yesterday read: “If I ran prisons there would be no TVs in their rooms and no soft treatment from governors.”

Who’s more likely to deliver such a policy: Dr Reid or Mr Cameron?

A Reid-led Labour Party is far more likely to hold on in Labour/Tory marginals than if Mr Brown becomes Prime Minister. It’s a depressing reality.

Anyway, if you’ve not yet had the chance to cast your vote, there’s still time…