THE BLOG

Five Things the Labour Leadership Campaign Can Learn From 'Game of Thrones'

22/06/2015 08:42 BST | Updated 21/06/2016 10:59 BST

Does not contain Season 5 spoilers...

The battle for Labour's iron throne has now really got going with the first of the broadcast debates. We know who the contenders are and what their positions are starting to look like. Alliances are being forged and battle plans are being prepared. It could get bloody...

The best thing any of the contenders can do is learn from the lessons offered by historical epic, Game of Thrones.

1) History remains important - reaction to the announcement that the police watchdog, the Independent Police Complaints Commission, is not to investigate clashes between miners and the South Yorkshire Police that took place at Orgreave during the miner's strike shows how much that whole period remains at the heart of the Labour movement. Ed Miliband tried to remind the electorate about the SNP's decision to back the Conservatives in the Parliamentary vote of no confidence in 1979 but was witheringly put down by Nicola Sturgeon. The miner's strike was only a few years later but is not so easily dismissed. It took Neil Kinnock years to put distance between the party and the strike but some in the current leadership contest appear to want to use it as a way of showing they are being true to the party's working class roots.

2) Never underestimate men with beards - Tyrion Lannister never seems to go away. Despite setbacks and unpopularity, not least amongst his own family, he continues to survive and thrive. Jeremy Corbyn likewise should not underestimated especially with the role of registered supporters being a complete unknown. Tyrion has been the power behind the throne maybe that is Jeremy's role as well.

3) Houses never go away - House Blair and House Brown still seem to be dominating discussions. Despite the former leaders of these Houses being themselves largely absent, the young pretenders want to take up their banners. In the mayoral election, Sadiq Khan has complained that some of his opponents are 'ultra Blairite' and 'insiders' for the party leadership have talked about 'Taliban New Labour'.

4) The younger generation are the future - the daughters of Eddard Stark look likely to be more powerful than more established players and for Labour, people are already thinking of the next election and who might run. This would mean that this leadership election is less important than the next one which, if the electoral arithmetic is right, is more likely to produce the next Labour Prime Minister.

There will always be an ongoing process of leadership change. The difficulty for Labour is if this becomes an open challenge or a battle between potential future candidates, House Baratheon style (note the unintended brother's comparison here). This is possible if the trade unions are seen to exert too strong an influence on the eventual outcome.

5) Numbers are important - be it for the battle for King's Landing or Winterfell or come the special conference in September, each of the candidates needs their supporters motivated and active. The danger is that each candidate talks to their own tribe rather than having a view towards building a wider conversation with the electorate. A simple picking and choosing of past successes and failures does little to help lead or build the wider appeal necessary to win. That needs vision and commitment.

Luckily, the open warfare of the late 1970s and early 1980s is a thing of the past. No-one is shouting traitor or accusing others of betrayal. But briefings and infighting show no signs of going away. It does not do any of the Houses in Games of Thrones any good and it won't help Labour win any elections either.