Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Who will stop Cruddas?

For the past four weeks I have been running a poll on this blog on Labour's Deputy Leadership election. The results are of course totally unscientific but they do suggest that I was right in my original supposition that Jon Cruddas and Hilary Benn are some way ahead of the field among ordinary Labour supporters (some of whom visit this blog!) with Alan Johnson, Peter Hain, Harriet Harman and Hazel Blears fighting it out for the minor placings.

The full results (which can also be viewed HERE if you like coloured graphs) are:

Jon Cruddas 35%
Hilary Benn 29%
Alan Johnson 6%
Peter Hain 5%
Harriet Harman 4%
Hazel Blears 3%
Jack Straw 3%
None of the above 15%

On the basis of this, and also some of what has appeared about the contest in the mainstream media and on other blogs, it is possible to draw some early conclusions about the candidates and the eventual shape of the field.

The first is that Jack Straw will not actually stand. He doesn't really need the job, and he seems to be in line for a return to the Foreign Office under Gordon, or alternatively, a surprise appointment as Chancellor. As I have pointed out previously, he could even stay in his current job and be appointed Deputy Prime Minister anyway if Cruddas wins, given that Cruddas doesn't want the DPM title.

My second preliminary conclusion, in common with UK Daily Pundit is that Hazel Blears is effectively out of the race, and that the female vote will line-up solidly behind Harriet Harman. Interestingly, Brendan Carlin in the Telegraph's new Little and Large blog also speculates that Harriet's campaign is gaining momentum.

By contrast, my third conclusion is that Peter Hain's campaign is in deep trouble. Already, Cruddas appeared to have stolen a lot of his natural support on the left. The fact that Guido has now got hold of a list of his supporters, including several paid Labour Party officials who are supposed to be neutral, has only added to the sense that this is turning into a rather ill-starred enterprise.

Finally, I conclude that while it is Cruddas rather than Hain who appears to be collaring the anti-war, anti-establishment left vote in the party, the pro-Blair, pro-war "establishment" has reached no clear consensus among itself as to the best way of stopping him. It is this that, to my mind, will now become the key question at the heart of the election.

From my poll, and also from much anecdotal evidence surrounding the campaign, it appears that the obvious answer to the question "Who will stop Cruddas?" is Hilary Benn. But some with much greater inside knowledge of the PLP than I have dispute this, and claim that it is Alan Johnson who actually has the greater support among MPs and even the unions.

So while I suspect that this battle is really boiling down to Benn v Cruddas, I'll err on the side of caution for the time being and just say that whichever of Benn or Johnson emerges ahead on the first ballot will go on to become the main challenger to Cruddas in the final run-off.

Much will then depend on what happens to Hain's support among the unions, which is still significant. Will it fall in dutifully behind the establishment candidate, or will it go to Cruddas, whose ideological position is much closer to Hain's own?

On the answer to that question, I suspect, the eventual outcome will rest.

  • This post was featured in Web Grab, on Daniel Finkelstein's Comment Central.

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    Anonymous said...

    I think your analysis is spot on but I have one question,
    Over christmas I spoke to a whip and someone who works for the PLP. They were both keen Johnson supporters and of the view that the majoity of the whips office and backroom staff were behind Johson.
    However they also were big Blears fan's and felt if she enterd ,the majority of johnsons PLP support would switch.

    Theres something likeable about Hazel and Ive spoken to a number of members on the left of the party that would still vote for her even though they say her uber loyalism can irritate them.

    Could you expand on why you think Blears is out of it ?

    p.s i ofen find your comments box tempremental ( i dont have a website) if i dont want to choose anonymous. this may be why you dont get many coments.


    Paul Linford said...


    Sorry about the technical difficulties. There seems to be a developing consensus that moving to beta Blogger was a bad idea. Unfortunately there's not a lot I can do as no-one else has yet developed an export platform.

    Turning to Blears, I originally thought she was the ideal candidate to balance Brown, in that it would have given Labour a leadership ticket that was Scottish/English, Brownite/Blairite, Male/Female, and Older/Younger. In a column I wrote for the North-West Enquirer earlier this year, I actually predicted she would get the job.

    I think three things have happened since then to make this unlikely. First, the whole balance of the contest has shifted leftwards. Brown is seen by a great many in the party as ideologically indistinguishable to Blair, and the "balanced ticket" argument has therefore focused not on the need for a Blairite candidate to balance Brown's latent Old Labour-ism, but on the need for a leftist candidate to re-enfranchise the disaffected faithful. That is why Cruddas is currently the man to beat.

    Second, while many MPs accept the case for a gender balance, Hazel has failed to wrest that mantle from Harriet Harman, whose campaign has so far been much better organised. In this respect, I think Blears has probably been hampered a bit by her position as party chair, which prevents her from doing too much overt campaigning and organising.

    Finally, Hazel made a bit of an arse of herself over the hospital closures issue. I personally thought her stance was quite brave, and said so at the time. But it seems that a lot of other people thought it either disloyal or hypocritical or both, and in retrospect, if it was an attempt to curry favour with the grassroots, it seems to have been a rather misguided one.

    In conclusion, I don't think Blears can now overhaul Benn or Johnson to emerge as the establishment candidate against Cruddas. Accordingly, I think she'll withdraw and back one of them - probably Benn, although I guess quite a bit of her support will also go to Harman.

    RedEye said...

    I was tempted to switch from Benn to Johnson, after Benn's rather disappointing interview on the Westminster Hour (in which he came across as a platitudinous Sunday School Goodie Goodie spouting cliches).

    But if it's Benn or Cruddas, I shall vote for Benn.

    Blears comes over far better in person than she does on TV. I was impressed by her total lack of self-importance at the 03 Young Labour conference (having disliked her from what I'd seen of her on TV, particularly the way she'd transmogrified from pro-Clause 4 leftie to 'Tony's little ray of sunshine', from the rebellious sublime to the loyalist ridiculous).

    HenryG said...

    I note that Nick Brown MP is speaking at Jon Cruddas' event in Newcastle in February. Considering his closeness to Gordon (and previous support for Harriet) it may well be that the Brownites are giving more than a nod of approval to Cruddas' campaign.

    Whatever Brown's crew may think of his views on renewal or top-up fees, they surely know that they're going to need someone to rebuild the party in time for the next election. Otherwise their man will be seen as a 'tail end Charlie'. With the current state of Labour Party funding they keep the unions on board. Cruddas has impeccible credentials in both these areas.

    el tom said...

    Aye, indeed, I have heard it said that Johnson has a lot more support in parliament than Benn, though in the unions they are close, though, once again, both trumped by Cruddas. The Blairites must be panicking over which horse to back...

    UK Daily Pundit said...

    Jack Straw will beat Cruddas. He's the only Labour MP capable of filling John Prescott's shoes. The rest of them are lightweights.