Thursday, February 22, 2007

Forget Meacher and McDonnell - the only credible left challenger is John Denham

So the worst-kept secret in politics is out. Michael Meacher is to challenge Gordon Brown for the Labour leadership, claiming only he can unite the left." The reaction from the John McDonnell camp was suitably pithy. "We have been expecting Michael's announcement for over nine months. It doesn't change things."

Indeed it doesn't. Both men are completely unelectable either as Labour leader or as Prime Ministers and will be trounced by Brown if they ever get on the ballot paper - McDonnell because he is an unreconstructed throwback to the days of the Loony Left, Meacher because he is an ageing Faust who compromised every political ideal he ever held in his long and ultimately fruitless attempts to hang onto ministerial office.

That the election could throw up two such unpromising candidates is symptomatic of the plight of the left at this time. McDonnell seems a perfecly amiable chap, and can at least point to a principled voting record. But Meacher has zero credibility with the left as a result of his decision not to resign over the Iraq War - a decision he now says he bitterly regrets.

If left-leaning MPs are looking for a credible candidate to stand against Brown, as opposed to a token standard-bearer who will simply make Gordon look good, they should look no further than the one man in their midst who did resign over the war - John Denham.

Unlike Meacher or McDonnell, Denham is a sensible leftie who in most respects holds perfectly mainstream Labour Party views, notably on the importance of tackling inequality. He also, of course, has relevant recent high-level ministerial experience as a minister in the Home Office.

John Denham is a man of high principle who in my opinion would make an admirable Prime Minister. Unfortunately he seems to have no intention of standing. Unless he can be persuaded to do so, the left should stop wasting its time - and the Labour Party's money - and get behind Gordon.

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18 comments:

dan said...

Is the same 'left candidate' who attacked increasing immigration, called for the re-introduction of prison gangs and hasn't opposed any Government policy except for Iraq?

james higham said...

Still prefer the Chipmunk.

septicisle. said...

Or we could dig Robin Cook up and re-animate his corpse. Both things are about as likely.

Anonymous said...

A good point about John Denham. As well as being a mean of principle he is not pompous, he is respected by colleagues and last but not least he is very good on radio and TV - miles better than Gordon.

By the way, this was the PM on the Today programme, quoted by John McTernan in his circular to MPs and activists today:

"The PM also countered claims by Jeremy Greenstock for the Daily Telegraph that coalition forces hadn’t planned for after the overthrowing of Saddam Hussein. Put to him that the Baathist forces should not have been disbanded, he said: “Yes, it's true, when we removed Saddam and his police and army, of course part of the establishment of repression, then we had to rebuild it. There was no way that the Iraqi police force that was there under Saddam was going to be able to keep order in the country properly. They were an instrument of Saddam's dictatorship. You were always going to have to build the Iraqi police and army from scratch.” "

Even after the collapse of the Nazi regime, the Allies didn't disband the police force. Tony is not "countering" Jeremy Greenstock's argument - he has lost contact with reality.

Please let the leadership contest be sooner rather than later.

Honey Weeks said...

Come on guys, wake up! Don't any of you so=called journalists actually analyze anything anymore; or do you spend your time repeating what the nationals say (and even worse what other journalists and bloggers say...) IT IS PLAIN THAT MY PREDICTIONS ARE COMING TO PASS.... You have missed out on the biggest single event of the past week...the re-call of British troops from Iraq. There will be a big song and dance around Easter as "the boys come home" which will be accompanied by the "official" announcement of the handover to Gordon Brown....which will be followed by a revolt and a leadership challenge. Don't any of you guys ACTUALLY interpret events as opposed to repeating each other like hacks sitting around a bar...

Paul Linford said...

As I understood it Honey (and it was, admittedly, pretty hard to make out what you were saying) your prediction was that John Prescott would succeed Blair as PM.

RedEye said...

Denham, who I have a lot of time for, strikes me more as a Blairite opposed to the Iraq war than a (particularly) left candidate. I remember how, after his victory in Southampton Itchen left him as one of the few Labour MPs in the south-east in the 92 parliament, he called for the party to take more account of the aspirations of southern voters. It's a great pity Blair didn't bring him into the Cabinet after the GE two years ago. Principled resignation, followed by constructive criticism (as opposed to sour 'Disgusted of College Green' whingers such as Short and Kilfoyle) ought to be rewarded.

There might, hopefully, be a position for him in a Brown Cabinet.

Or maybe he's a good bet for Labour leader (or, at least, a leadership candidate) if Brown loses the next GE.

HenryG said...

Denham is a dangerous threat to Brown since he could conceivaby pull in support from the Campaign Group right through to soft Blairites. He is such a threat that it is inconceivable he will stand and instead will probably and rightfully play a big role in a Brown government. He would make a refreshing Home Secretary after John Reid.

barnacle_bill said...

Wait and see Meacher rewarded by GB for spliting the Left vote.

Chris Paul said...

Denham is no lefty. That is utterly ridiculous.

GB will surely be throughly pissed off with MM for splitting the left vote?

Anonymous said...

Denham was New Labour back in the early 80s: tough on crime, tough on benefit cheats, rights and responsibilities.

He would make an excellent deputy leader

Bryan McGrath said...

I agree with the idea of running Robin Cook a candidate.

Certainly his CV is vastly superior to any of the other proposed candidates: he served in high office; resigned over the war; good at the dispatch box. Pity about the face, but then GB is no oil painting. Arhh what might have been.

Incidentally I saw the old witch Thatcher at the unveiling of her statue. Reports that she is suffering from senility seem exaggerated: although she did only speak for a few seconds.

If she is given a state funeral I do hope that the 'powers that be' take the precaution of burying her face down

Anonymous said...

Didn't he used to 'run' Liberty in the days before Shami Chakrabarti ?

Or am I thinking of someone else ?

RedEye said...

You're thinking of Patricia Hewitt, she of the insufferably patronising voice. I loved the footage of her as a Bennite rabble-rouser with big hair in 'Labour - the Wilderness Years' shown on the BBC in 95. She's gone from far left to hard right with no intervening period whatever.

As for an earlier contribution, Denham was New Labour in the early 90s, but I get the impression that he and his neighbouring Labour Southampton MP, Philip Whitehead, were very left-wing in the early 80s.

Harry Barnes said...

Peter4Leader

victor grayson said...

Harry, get over it. Hain isn't standing. Meacher won't be, either.

Red Tamarin said...

Paul - I've gotta say I've thought the same way for some time myself.

Denham is a smart, competent and respected on all sides of the House. He has the potential to be Prime Minister, but if not, should at least be persuaded off the back benches and into Cabinet.

GaryJ said...

Wasn't it John Wadham at Liberty - now I think something to so with the Police Complaints Commission.

And pedantry forces me to point out that it was Alan Whitehead, not Philip in Southampton.

I recall reading Brian Gould's autobiography a few years ago which claimed that John Denham was the leader of the local left-wing faction harrying him when he was a Southampton MP in the early 1980s.

Sounds a bit like JD is a male version of Margaret Beckett, running with the pack.