Last night’s BBC Question Time was insightful, but largely a repetition of what has already been said during the leadership campaign. Specifically, Diane Abbott’s “I wasn’t in the Cabinet and I WASN’T RESPONSIBLE FOR IRAQ!”
You see, we accept that Abbott has a good voting record – but if she was seriously to come the leader, she would have to stop talking so much about herself and more about the party. The party voted for the Iraq war, regardless of the abstainers – and so the party needs to take collective responsibility for the war and reform and learn from that.
The public, I don’t think, will want someone who speaks in their own personal capacity whilst being in a party that largely supported the Iraq War (she only has to look at Nick Clegg’s example for that). Ed Miliband is much better at addressing this – he accepts that New Labour needs to learn from the mistakes of Iraq and doesn’t only focus on the fact that he didn’t vote for it (even though he didn’t have the chance).
Whilst David Miliband, mainly at the beginning, wanted to sweep Iraq under the carpet, Abbott is at the other end of the scale as she talks about it nonstop – but there is a central commonality: both have ignored how much this has influenced the party and the public’s view of New Labour.
If Diane Abbott seriously wanted to be the leader she needed to take a more level-headed approach. By all means, express that you voted against the Iraq war, but to go on and on about how you didn’t vote for it, and that you weren’t a cabinet member -it undermines her campaign, regardless of what she might think.
The fact that she is proud of not being a cabinet minister makes you question her commitment to becoming leader anyway. As leader, you would be central to consensus decision making, with the cabinet. Even if the other’s have been caught up in the New Labour cabinet circles, she fails to show how her individual credits provide for collective beliefs. And personally, I think this has annoyed people. Abbott has missed the need to take collective responsibility, and how important this is to reform a party so that it becomes electable again.