Deputy Leadership

Stoa readers: who should I vote for in the Deputy Leadership contest?

The various candidates keep sending me email, which I delete; and Harriet Harman has written to me at home twice, because she got my initial initial wrong on her initial attempt, and I think both of those ended up in the bin, too; and publications I subscribe to have arrivied containing Peter Hain flyers, which go into the bin.

But now I have to cast a vote, and while the Fabian Society has sent me this morning a handy booklet called “Labour’s Choice” with stirring essays in it (“Building on Success”, by Hazel Blears, that kind of thing), but I’m not sure I can face reading it with the care it no doubt deserves all the way through.

But I will read the comments thread to this post before filling in my ballot paper, so if anyone does have anything to say, please fire away.

At the moment I’m hesitating between Hilary Benn and Jon Cruddas, because I can think of at least some nice things to say about those two, and I struggle in the case of the other four. (Though I also have a vague memory of Alan Johnson being one of the less bad ministers for higher education, and that should count for something.)

0 thoughts on “Deputy Leadership”

  1. Did you see the Newsnight debate? Alan Johnson and Hazel Blears’ comments about how good it is for people to aspire to wealth and want to ‘get on’ depressed me, as did everyone apart from Cruddas wanting to renew Trident. I’m hestitating between Cruddas and Hain myself – I don’t know why but Hilary Benn leaves me cold. Had some dealings with Harriet Harman when working on domestic violence and conceived a massive dislike for her, plus I can’t stand the way she goes on about being a woman as if it’s more important than policies or character.

  2. I think Hilary Benn offers something the others don’t. He’s got a straightforward approach to politics, talks directly, and says what he thinks.

    He’s not massively rebellious nor very hard left but nor is he a blind loyalist – he’s spoken out against the use of terms “war on terror” says De Ba’athification was a mistake etc – but doesn’t “do a Harriet” and pretend he wasn’t there and didn’t vote for it.

    He’s also a genuine socialist through and through who instinctively reacts and thinks like labour people – he was a councillor for 22 years which shows he’s no flash in the pan nor just a hack.

  3. Peter Hain has been nominated by my old friend Bob Marshall-Andrews, which is a good sign, but he does seem to me to be a bit of a wanker, and he’s contributed to the “if you don’t like the government you must be the kind of person who goes to dinner-parties” line of argument, which I’ve never been impressed by. On Benn: he seems to be someone who has concentrated on being a good minister, and there’s so few of them around that that earns points in my book. Thanks for telling me that about Cruddas and Trident, though: that’s very helpful, and could be the clincher.

  4. Thanks for that, Dan: skimming it, what leaps out is that Cruddas supports Strangers into Citizens and Benn thinks asylum seekers shouldn’t be allowed to work. But I’ll give it a more careful read later.

  5. I think only John Cruddas seems to have some idea of what Labour needs to do to become itself again. That requires someone with at least some dgree of independence from the government. And he’s admitted he was wrong about Iraq.
    I think the Hilary Benn campaign is ironic, because everybody knows that he’s really trading on his father’s name. So the son of the man who fought to stop being Viscount Stanmsgate relies on the hereditary principle to get elected.
    I fear that the Deputy Leader we deserve is Hazel Blears.

  6. Without wanting to get into a slanging match….I had been considering second preferencing Jon Cruddas until I saw him hust the other day for the first time. I do genuinely think he would be a problem for us if elected (though I’m pleased that he won’t be far off).

    He has been given a fairly easy ride by virtue of his underdog status, with most people focusing on his politics, and how they differentiate him. But, since we’re already seen as a very blokey Party at the moment, the more so with Gordon in charge, I think Cruddas’ hyper blokey approach just won’t work – it came accross as almost thuggish.

    He raised some interesting points at the start of the campaign and there’s been some movement on those from the other candidates (housing etc) but in reality for him to actually win would be problematic. And I think the risk now is that he’s close enough to being in the last two that anything could happen.

  7. I fear that the Deputy Leader we deserve is Hazel Blears.

    I think that’s probably true, but the Prime Minister we deserve is either yet more Tony Blair or David Cameron, so it’s not clear we’re getting what we deserve…

  8. Cruddas was very impressive (and not at all thuggish) when he came to talk at the Oxford Labour Party GC on the BNP, doing a double-act with Nick Lowles of Searchlight.

    And one can hope that were he to become Deputy Leader, one of his priorities would be to ensure that Margaret Hodge never said anything in public ever again ever about housing, immigration, etc.

    (And, yes, no slanging match, please.)

  9. As a Liberal Democrat, I feel I should urge you to vote for Hazel Blears, just because she’s perhaps the best argument against Blairism ever invented.

    More seriously, if I was in a position to have a vote, I’d probably go for Benn or Cruddas, partly because neither of them seem to think victory means they automatically become Deputy PM.

  10. I seem to remember endorsing Hilary Benn on CT a while ago, but I think I’m going to change my mind on that, on the basis that removing both Benn and Zoellick from the Darfur peace negoatiations would be quite dangerous, and that frankly I care about Darfur more than I do about the Labour Party. HB deserves the job, but it’s a job not worth having.

  11. KJP (or anyone else): What’s all this about Benn’s “straightforwardness”? It’s mentioned upthread, and Benn mentions it in his Fabian essay, but that essay didn’t seem terribly straightforward to me (a couple of mentions of the “culture of cynicism”, which is, apparently, a bad thing, but it’s far from straightforward to work out how or why or whether there’s a good argument buried in there), and so I’m trying to work out what it might mean. Sure, when he’s asked in the survey Dan mentions above whether asylum seekers should be allowed to work, he just says “No”, and while that is a “straightforward” answer, there are other words that seem to characterise it just a little bit better.

  12. Apart from reasons mentioned above, I htink there would be a strong symbolical value in choosinbg Cruddas, the only non-cabinet member. It would show that there is a chance that things might change and I reckon he’d be more willing to stand up to Brown and tell him stuff he doesn’t want to hear than any of the other brown-nosers.

  13. I think what I believe is straight forward about Hilary is that he has presented himself, his political views and then asked the Party to decide whether to support him.

    Many of the other candidates have postured or appealed to one or other section of opinion within the party through hints and briefings and so on in a way that, had the frontrunner engaged in it, could have turned the contest into a really unhealthy one for the Party. I think Harman and Hain are the worst culprits – but the rest are also engaged in it to some degree or other.

    Hilary is, in that sense a unity candidate – but more a unity candidate in that he would be a unifying influence rather than that he represents an appeal for unity. He just doesn’t do off the record briefings about his colleagues and so on.

  14. Personally, I’m going to vote for Alan Johnson – the few interactions I’ve had with him make me think he’s a good thing. And he balances Brown, I think, in terms of being a human being.

  15. I voted for Benn in the end. I don’t believe the Darfur negotiations can result in a just or sustainable peace before the NRA’s hand is massively strengthened, (I also think any assessment that peace can be reached through negotiations at this stage ignores the extent to which the conflict is linked to the temporarily paused civil war with the SPLA) so whilst I do care more about peace in Sudan more than the largely irrelevant deputy leadership election, Benn’s involvement in the negotiations wasn’t a determining factor for me.

    I do think Benn is perceived by the media and the public (as far as he’s known) as being honest and straightforward, and this is exactly what we need after the disaster of loans for peerages.

    On Cruddas’ support for Strangers into Citizens – surely this is a bad thing? Harman’s support for regularisation but not necessarily the SiC programme is much more encouraging. Cruddas seems completely wedded to the SiC plan – which includes so many exceptions and conditions that it would effectively be used by the government to flush out illegalised migrants ahead of mass deportations. The SiC campaign is also run in an incredibly top-down way without the involvement of asylum seekers and other migrants at a decision making level, and doesn’t form the basis for a mass movement of migrants that could actually make the government do something they don’t want to do.

    For me Cruddas’ promotion of this campaign without really understanding the issues is quite revealing, and I’m not sure I want to promote him by adding to his support.

  16. Well, it was Harriet wot 1 it.

    As I will eventually get round to posting on my blog I voted:

    1. Cruddas 2. Benn 3. Johnson 4. Harman 5. Hain 6. Blears

    Cruddas seemed the most radical, fresh candidate by a country mile. I have met both Benn and Johnson and they seem like honest, good people, although Johnson was talking rubbish through most of the campaign. Harman felt like a very forced ‘Cruddas-lite’ throughout the campaign – saying what she thought the party members and unions wanted to hear. It was the political equivalent of Eddie and the Hot Rods – pub rock trying to be new wave (sorry, that’s rather an obscure reference). She might be a pleasant surprise in the job, but I’m not that hopeful.

    Anyway, I’m just pleased that Blair is the hell out of there. That will provide me with at least four and a half hours of satisfaction before reality reasserts itself… will someone please pass the mescaline?

  17. I voted

    1. Cruddas 2. Johnson 3. Benn 4. Hain 5. Harman 6. Blears

    So fairly close to the scientific Berstram analysis. I’m glad to hear Harriet Harman on the radio this morning denying that she’d said various things about Iraq, or that what she might or might not have said about Iraq had any bearing on the contest, but rather insisting that people voted for her because of her ideas about caring for elderly relatives. I think this usefully sets the tone for the Harman Deputy Leadership.

    And – yes – it is very good that Blair is on the way out. But it’s also nice that some of the others who have really disgraced themselves in office (Goldsmith, Reid) are on the way out, too. Don’t lose sight of the little pleasures just because you’re gloating too much over the Fall of Blair.

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