Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Bloggers 4 Benn?

With Hilary Benn now officially in the race for Labour's deputy leadership, it is already clear that a head of steam is building up behind the International Development Secretary - in the blogosphere as well as among MPs.

A totally unscientific survey of leading Labour bloggers appears to show support pretty evenly dividing between Mr Benn and Jon Cruddas, with little support as yet for Harriet Harman, Peter Hain or any of the other possibles.

Among the Bloggers 4 Benn are Mike Ion who says: "I admire Benn enormously and feel that he is a man of real moral stature and courage and I am confident that he will have broad appeal both across the party and the country."

Paul Burgin, author of the Mars Hill blog agrees saying: "Like his father - although father and son are from different wings of the Party - he is charming, polite, sociable and thoughtful....He is also down-to-earth and the only sitting cabinet minister I have met who I have dared to address by his first name."

Against that, Reclaim Labour's Harry Perkins reminds readers of a speech earlier this year in which Mr Benn criticised the Make Poverty History campaign this evening for ignoring the role jobs and economic growth play in lifting the poor out of poverty.

Influential Labour blog Kerron Cross appears to be firmly behind Cruddas, as is The Daily, whose Westminster-based authors claim to have been the first to reveal plans for a Benn challenge.

And me? Well, I am really none too sure at the moment who I will back, although, as I will be supporting Gordon Brown for the leadership come what may, I will be looking towards the candidate who I think will provide the most balanced ticket.

In this context, there is a good case to be made for a gender balanced ticket, but Ms Harman was in my view one of the least distinguished of Blair's female Cabinet ministers and the only other female alternative, Hazel Blears, comes from the wrong wing of the party in my view.

No, what is needed to balance a Brown leadership is someone from the sensible left, and, although Hilary Benn may pick up substantial support from this section of the party, I don't think he really fits the bill in terms of bringing an alternative perspective to bear on future policy direction.

For me, then, the choice currently lies between Cruddas and Peter Hain. I like a lot of what Cruddas has been saying about reconnecting the Government and the party, but am not at all convinced that disconnnecting the roles of Deputy Leader and Deputy Prime Minister is the best way to achieve this.

As for Hain, I have great admiration for him and what he has achieved in his career as a campaigner and as a politician but I think there has to be some question mark over whether, alongside Gordon, he would provide a sufficiently fresh face.

So, for now at least, I'm keeping my options open.

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Bob Piper said...

A proper balanced team would mean a 'leftish' Deputy Prime Minister... not a 'leftish' Deputy Leader who, at the Leaders' discretion, may not even be in the Cabinet... so I agree with you that disconnecting the two is not a good idea.

MorrisOx said...

A balanced ticket has got bugger all to do with philosophy, Bob.

In Westminster it's about who you stitch up a deal with.

In public, it's about someone who can do the soundbite without making it obvious that poor old Broon is right up there with Acorn Antiques' Mrs Overall when he's in front of a camera.

Benn's the man. Cruddas is a nobody with a weird name.

Nick said...

It would be up to the Leader's discretion anyway, regardless who won.

And just being DPM in itself with no other portfolio wouldn't actually be that more powerful than a deputy leader in the Cabinet anyway in my view.

However, Cruddas does want the Deputy Leader in the Cabinet and contributing on broad political strategy as well as ensuring grassroots, union and backbench opinion was heard at the top table.

I think this would surely be a top political priority for the sensible left at this stage, rather than worrying about who gets the two Jags.

I think Hain and Harman will to an extent pitch to the left, but Hain is not seen entirely credibly by the left these days. Benn will get some left support on his name but will run on a broadly Blairite ticket.

For me, Cruddas is the only game in town.

politicalcorrespondent said...

I think I should clarify that Tom Watson was first to publish the Benn story, he just beat us to the punch on that one.

Also, none of The Daily's team currently earn a wage inside the Westminster bubble - we carry a mix of backgrounds, journalism, NGO campaigning, trade union and Labour Party activism - but we would certainly claim to be well-sourced in Labour politics, with reasonable contacts in the other parties too.

We would also certainly describe ourselves as "sensible left" and hence the support for Cruddas.

Most blogs have yet to declare, but I agree that Benn is shaping up as the leading Blairite contender so far.

It's going to be a fascinating contest for political anoraks, whoever you're backing!

trafficOne said...

could Margaret Beckett emerge as a candidate "out-of-the-blue"?

tyger said...

I'm going to come out for Hain, I just need a fetching logo like what Cruddas has got.

Bob Piper said...

tyger... you can come out, without Peter Hain, you know. This is the modern world!

el tom said...

It's all about Cruddas. But I'm transferring to Hain, if we're allowed transfers, that is.