My latest weekend column focuses on the deputy leadership race and what each of the potential outcomes could signify in terms of the Labour Party's future direction. I argue that while an Alan Johnson win might appear on the surface to be the most electorally advantageous course for the party, a Jon Cruddas victory would open up the prospect of the genuine policy renewal that is vital if New Labour is to re-enthuse the electorate.
Here's an extract:
"So what does it all mean....Well, a Hazel Blears victory would signify that party members, far from wanting a shift away from New Labour, are anxious for Mr Brown not to stray too far from the Blairite faith. On the contrary, a victory for either Mr Cruddas or Mr Hain would indicate a desire for a much more traditional sort of Labour agenda, with concerns about inequality much more to the fore.
If either Mr Benn or Ms Harman wins, it would suggest to me a desire not to rock the boat too much - both stand in the broad mainstream of Labour opinion and both would make natural deputies. Finally a win for Mr Johnson - probably the candidate with the widest public appeal - would suggest that the party is concerned, above all else, about winning the next general election.
Of all the possible outcomes, the one which contains potentially the greatest peril for Mr Brown is a triumph for the backbench outsider, Mr Cruddas. It would be portrayed by the Tories not only as a lurch to the left, but proof that the unions - where the Dagenham MP's support is strongest - still run the Labour Party.
But at the same time, such an outcome would probably provide the greatest opportunity for genuine policy renewal for a party which looks to have run out of ideas. In purely policy terms, if anyone has been setting the agenda in the course of the campaign thus far, it is Mr Cruddas.
Take housing, for instance. For years, this has been a Cinderella issue, neglected by Blair as an issue only of interest to the have-nots whose support he consistently took for granted. New Labour thought that by building thousands of new low-cost homes on brownfield sites, it would widen access to home ownership - but many of these have been snapped up by buy-to-let speculators.
Thanks to Mr Cruddas, the pressing need for a major increase in social housing provision has now leaped to near the top of the agenda for the incoming Brown administration. And whoever emerges as deputy, it is "forgotten" issues such as these which Labour needs to embrace if it is to convince the electorate that it has a fresh and distinctive vision."