Tuesday, February 27, 2007

....and here are the ones who will get my backing

Yesterday I penned a semi-light-hearted post about the candidates I would not be supporting in Labour's deputy leadership election - Alan Johnson because he is the clear choice of Rupert Murdoch, and Hazel Blears because as the leading Tory bloggers have correctly identified, she really would be the Conservative Party's dream come true.

Actually, I have some slightly more serious reasons for my choice, so in a bid to please all those who want to see more in-depth political analysis on this blog, I thought that today I would go into a bit more detail about who will or won't be getting my backing, and why.

The starting point, for me, is to ask the question what a deputy leader is for. To my mind, it's not necessarily to provide a Deputy Prime Minister. Whether or not Gordon Brown or whoever succeeds Tony Blair decides to have one of those is largely a matter for them, and in any case the deputy leader of the party might not necessarily be the best candidate.

I think the role of the deputy leader is to complement (though not necessarily compliment!) the leader - by providing a counterpoint in style and in some cases substance, and aiming to reach the parts of the party and country that the leader doesn't necessarily reach. This is what John Prescott managed to do very successfully until he started behaving like a man who had allowed power to go to his underpants head.

So who best provides that balance? Well, Hazel Blears would certainly provide a counterpoint to Gordon Brown in some respects, in that she is English, female, Blairite, and a relatively fresh face. But in the current climate, the ideological balance needs to be the other way - towards the large swathes of traditional Labour supporters who have felt alienated and disenfranchised by the New Labour project, not to those who want to be even more New Labour than Blair.

What about Hilary Benn, who is claimed by his supporters to be more on the centre-left of the party? I think his strengths lie in being a first-class departmental minister rather than a political force in his own right. Douglas Hurd is perhaps the closest analogy I can think of, and like Hurd, I think he would make an excellent Foreign Secretary.

Alan Johnson is a more difficult one. I think he is a very likeable chap who could well prove a big hit with the voters, but the main reason I wouldn't support him is that I think he is a natural leader rather than a natural deputy. The Blair-Brown relationship would be reinvented by the press as Brown-Johnson, with the No 2 waiting impatiently for the boss's career to implode so he could take over. That is the last thing the Labour Party needs right now.

Finally, there is Harriet Harman. I think she does reach some of the parts Gordon doesn't reach, in terms of women voters and southern England, and to that extent would be an asset for the party. What turns me against her though is her very mediocre record as a minister, and the fact that she has nothing very new to say about the role of the deputy leader beyond the fact that it shouldn't have a penis.

Which leaves me with a shortlist of two in Peter Hain and Jon Cruddas. Both of these candidates have, in their different ways, advocated a fresh direction for the party and the Government, and I would be happy to see either of them win.

I like a lot of what Hain has had to say recently about the need to tackle the growing wealth divide in this country, and although I happen to think he has been rather opportunistic in the way he has said it, and that he should have resigned over Iraq, I won't hold that against him, as it's the future of the party that matters now, not the past.

Cruddas has been a breath of fresh air in the contest and represents perhaps the best hope of reconnecting the party with its grassroots. I think as the contest goes on he needs to say slightly less about party organisation though and more about the policy perspective that he would bring to bear.

I don't, at this stage, see the point in declaring between the two of them, although I will do this nearer the time. Suffice to say I think both of them would perform the Prescott role of providing a balance to Brown and keeping Labour's big tent together - hopefully in a slightly classier way.

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james higham said...

What about Ed Balls, Paul? He'd be fantastic and we could immerse fully in the EU that way [see my post]. Although I have also been, despite not being a 'leading Tory blogger', firmly behind the Chipmunk from the word go. Delighted she's thrown her hat into the ring.

HenryG said...

I broadly agree with you analysis Paul. One thing that Roy Hattersley has argued is that part of the renewal process for the party should involve the new leader bringing on new faces into the Cabinet. I think this argument applies to the deputy leadership contest too.

5 of the 6 candidates are ministers under Blair. Jon Cruddas on the other hand is a fresh face and would offer something different to Peter Hain and others. We could be electing our deputy leader to serve for many years, time for the new generation I say.

Richard Bailey said...

It was all going so well, and then you mentioned Harriet Harman. I can think of few politicians more loathed than her. She is so cynical and patronising, just a machine. If she is the great saviour, then you really are in trouble!!

Paul Linford said...

You and I may think that, Richard, but there have been numerous polls and surveys which show that Harriet is actually popular with floating voters. Strange, I know, but true.

Disillusioned and Bored said...

Doesn't Jack Straw even get a look in? What a crap campaign he's run.

Paul Linford said...

My understanding is that Straw decided not to run some time back. Of course, as my post seeks to make clear, the fact that he won't be deputy leader doesn't necessarily preclude him from becoming DPM.....

HenryG said...

That YouGov research you mention Paul was commissioned by Harriet herself and Mike Smithson from the wonderful www.politicalbetting.com had a pretty robust rebuttal of it once he got to see the unpublished figures. He said:

'For the actual numbers do show that 15% of respondents said they were “much more” or a “little more” likely to vote Labour if Gordon Brown was leader and Harriet Harman was deputy.

But here’s the rub. The Harman spinners conveniently ignored that an equal proportion, 15% - said they would be LESS LIKELY to vote Labour with these two in the job'


The fact that this is all Harriet has to go on now that another woman has joined the contest is pretty miserable.

Praguetory said...

You're too kind, Paul. Some good points there esp the analysis on Johnson - I'd never thought about it like that. If Cruddas does manage it, will it be the bloggas wot won it?

HenryG said...

That and the trade unions!

Anonymous said...

Excellent contribution to the debate. Cruddas has been a breath of fresh air and he has the ability to reconnect the party to its membership. Peter hain's problem is that he has been in government for too long and really is only interested in the position because he assumes that this will automatically lead to deputy PM. His swing back to his radical roots unfortunately looks far too optimistic. The recent stories about the aga cooke and th dannce floor alos show that rightly or wrongly he will become a distraction the real task of reconnecting the party with ordinary voters.

snowflake5 said...

I like Alan Johnson's secularism. It's been a long time since secularism was properly represented in government.

Re the "rivalry" with Gordon Brown - nonsense. If Gordon Brown "imploded", it would be the next generation who would benefit (Miliband, Alexander etc).

In Labour history deputy leadership is a consolation prize. No Labour deputy has ever gone on to become leader apart from Atlee (and his circumstances were unique). Therefore by putting yourself forward to be deputy, you are tacitly admitting that you can never be leader, which is why Miliband has not applied, despite the silly rumours that he would six months ago - there was even a rumour he'd be taking over from Prescott imminently (remember?).

GuardianReader said...

There is absolutely no point in speculating about the contest. It won't be possible for all six candidates to get 44 nominations, and it's better to wait till we know who's really in the race.

At the moment this is a beauty contest for MPs. We who are party members will to wait a bit until we get a say.

Caroline said...

Have so fear, Paul. Jon Cruddas has plenty to say about policy. Just take a look at his website: http://www.joncruddas.org.uk Housing, immigration, and employement- just to name a few of Jon's key issues - are certainly big issues for me and I suspect most of the country. I hope you will vote for him. You won't regret it.

Paul Linford said...

Guardian reader

Point taken, but I would be very surprised if neither Hain nor Cruddas is on the ballot paper, although it's possible one of them may not be.

Grant Thoms said...

So which of them is going to arrest the decline of the Labour Party in Scotland? So far Brown is failing miserably with the SNP going 5% ahead of Labour in the constituency vote in tomorrow's Scotsman/ICM poll. And only 63 days to go!

Political Penguin said...

Nice post Paul, very akin to my own thinking on the matter.

Anonymous said...

Where do Mrs Jack Dromey & Mrs Mills come in all this

Anonymous said...

Cruddas speaks much sense but will too far left i suspect. Hain will be whatever you want him to be. I suppose only NuLab could consider such a disgraceful person for DPM.

So if elected we will be pulling out of Iraq then? Hain did say he never agreed with it in teh first place, even though he supported sending troops to die.

People like this have no place in politics

I want Hazel Blears for DPM - does he think anyone takes her seriously??? Everytime she speaks she demonstrates everything that is wrong with politics; hysterical, meaningless, blind support of anything that might win a vote. I think that says it all.