Thursday, May 20, 2010

Labour Leadership race

In the space of such a short time we've gone from the leadership race being characterised as a Miliband family operation to being swamped by a host of would be leaders of the opposition. This is, of course, a good thing. For Labour to have a proper discussion about the direction it wants to go would mark a great improvement on the last time they selected their leader, from a list of one.

Generally I'll keep my nose out of it, I'm not emotionally involved enough to distinguish between David and Ed Miliband, Ed Balls, Andy Burnham et al. They all pretty much look like caretaker leaders to me anyway.

What does interest me is that there are currently two lefties with their hats in the ring, although we'll have to see which, if either, actually gets on the ballot paper.

The left hopefuls are Diane Abbott and John McDonnell who are two London MPs who have long political histories and who are both members of the Campaign Group. Either one of these candidates would be a real contribution to the political breadth of the leadership debate and would provide an opportunity for left-field ideas to get a wider airing.

McDonnell comes in a straight clear red, softened by his personable and thoughtful style while Abbott is more of a free thinking leftist who often does not conform to type. In other words she's not as left-wing as McDonnell, but then again it would be hard to live up to his impeccable, mace wielding, credentials.

Well, I say impeccable, he's been consistently opposed to electoral reform on the basis that Labour might seats and he's also supported odd EDMs on homeopathy and voted for the Digital Economy Bill but these aside he's as sound as a pound. Not the pound obviously - but a pound.

The objections most often aired about Abbott tend to revolve around two things. First that she's on TV a lot and second that she sent her kid to a private school. Having heard Ed Balls on Radio Four yesterday I'd say that someone who is capable of being in the glare of the media without collapsing into a blubbering ridiculous heap is probably an advantage.

The school thing is less fortunate although quite why this as been elevated to the status it has been as opposed to the way, for example, Jon Cruddas voted for the launching of an illegal war that resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands is quite beyond me. I'm pretty relaxed about candidates that are not 100% on message, and I'm certainly repulsed by the idea that to be on the left you have to be a moral paragon.

If we compare the left's challenge this time to last time's dress rehearsal we see differences and similarities. We're obviously seeing a more open field rather than the coronation of Brown. We're not seeing an associated deputy election, at least I hope not. However the attitude of McDonnell's supporters is surprisingly similar.

Last time McDonnell's allies chose belligerence as their coalition building tool of choice. They poured poison over both Michael Meacher, who they described as fake left, and bile over deputy leadership challenger Jon Cruddas who they simultaneously insisted had to back McDonnell. This time it's Abbott who is being accused of being fake left, despite the fact that she backed McDonnell's campaign last time around. I don't think this sort of heat will do anything except make it impossible for McDonnell to get onto the ballot paper - and he deserves to be there.

Whatever the outcome I hope that one of them is on the ballot paper, although I suspect it is extremely unlikely that either of them will be able to make a truly significant challenge for the top post simply because they represent a Labour Party that does not exist - and maybe never did.

1 comment:

Riversider said...

I've posted 10 Questions that Labour leadership contenders need to answer, here: