In a previous blog I wrote that Labour’s Leadership campaign was just like The Apprentice – the television programme where brash and pushy young people try to persuade Lord Sugar to give them a job. To do this they seem to find it necessary to exude total self-belief and self-confidence. A reader of this blog contacted me and pointed out that another TV programme, Blind Date, also offers a useful analogy.
Blind Date has been off the air for some time. It was presented by the highly successful entertainer and singer Cilla Black who sadly died earlier this month. On the show a young person is given the opportunity to chose between three others of the opposite sex (the programme never faced up to the challenge of different sexual preferences – this was the 80s). The three on offer are not visible so the choice is made on the basis of their answers to superficial questions: ‘what is the craziest thing you have ever done?’ or ‘if you could have super-power, what would it be?’
I refreshed my memory of the show’s entertaining awfulness by watching some extended clips on YouTube. One of the questions in a clip was ‘Sometimes my conversations with my friends become boring. If your friends were boring you what would you do to change the conversation?’ The best received of the three answers was ‘Don’t’ change the conversation – change your friends’. Here there may be an analogy with some current thinking in the Labour Party – if the electorate find us unacceptable don’t change our conversation, change the electorate. Here I detect a slight resonance in the apparent approach of some supporters of Jeremy Corbyn, Labour’s retro-candidate.
I know I’m being over-cynical. I used to enjoy watching Blind Date with my sons when they were too young to leave the family home on a Saturday evening. However there is a serious underlying point to be made. The selection process on Blind Date in no way served its purported purpose: to bring compatible young people together. It wasn’t meant to – the programme could only be judged as an entertainment vehicle. Our selection process in the Labour Party does not serve its purpose either. This is how we ended up with Ed rather than David Miliband. It provides no test of the breadth of vision, personal resilience or of the judgement needed to make the Party effective and relevant in the 21st Century. We have only ourselves to blame.