LABOUR should regard its leadership contest as its first attempt to reconnect with the country, and it should be taking its hustings to as many corners of the UK as it can. With Boris Johnson now very powerful, it is going to be difficult for Labour to get itself heard in the coming months, so it should make the most of the contest by going under the national radar and out into the grassroots.

The hustings are important because they do test the character of the next Labour leader. Sir Keir Starmer is the clear favourite, and he is thoroughly presentable and undoubtedly clever and committed. But does he have the charisma to take on Mr Johnson and to inspire a bedraggled party?

Rebecca Long Bailey needs to prove that there is a great deal more to her than just being the "continuity Corbyn" candidate. The left-wing direction has been rejected now on three occasions, and the party can't carry on that drift. Ms Long Bailey's campaign so far, and her CV, has been unconvincing and prone to mistakes.

Emily Thornberry, although brave, appears to carry too much baggage to be a successful new leader. Her infamous tweet in 2014 about a white van man and his flags was one of the first indications that London Labour did not understand the patriotism of ordinary places like the North-East, and her insistence of voting against any deal to stay in the EU was unpopular in Brexity areas.

Then come two wild cards. Lisa Nandy broke with Jeremy Corbyn early in his reign, took a pretty principled stand on the need to see Brexit through, and has developed some interesting ideas about reviving provincial towns. And Jess Phillips is great fun, enormously passionate, and bravely champions causes. The hustings might tell us if either has true potential to bring people together and be a leader.