Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Could we have another deputy leadership election?

I suspect that "God forbid!" would be the answer of most Labour Party members to that question, but the current pressure on Harriet Harman over the dodgy donations affair means the possibility cannot be ruled out.

So of the half-dozen candidates who stood last time round, who would risk throwing their hats into the ring again? Possibly only one or two, in my view.

Harman, of course, would automatically be ruled out. So too would Hazel Blears, Hilary Benn and Peter Hain on the grounds of their disappointing performances in June.

The only candidates from this summer's race I can see fancying another run round that particular block are Alan Johnson, pipped at the post by Harman after being widely tipped as the victor, and Jon Cruddas, who came a good third on the back of a strong grassroots campaign.

Cruddas turned down the offer of a job by Gordon Brown - there is some dispute as to whether it was a party vice-chairmanship or a junior ministerial post - and so is untainted by association with any of the disasters to strike the government over recent weeks. He could well win.

Johnson would also find it hard not to stand, having come so close before. But there would, I think, be other candidates.

The demographics of the Labour Party make it almost certain there would be a woman, with Caroline Flint, Ruth Kelly and Jacqui Smith among the possible contenders in the enforced absense of Harman and Blears.

I think Jack Straw would also fancy it. He expected to be made Deputy Prime Minister, or at the very least First Secretary of State, in Brown's first reshuffle, but the Prime Minister foolishly denied him both titles. He could not deny them were Straw to become deputy leader.

The big question, though, is whether one of the disgruntled Blairites would throw their hats into the ring - Charles Clarke, perhaps, or Alan Milburn, or even Foreign Secretary David Miliband?

If so, the media would very quickly try to turn it into a leadership election at one remove, and the attractions of Straw as a "unity candidate" would become even more apparent,

Could this be Jack's big moment? Although Brown will do all he can to save Harman, I fancy the Government would actually look stronger without her, with Straw officially installed as DPM and someone else entirely - Cruddas? - in the role of Party Chair.

Then again, Michael Heseltine's appointment to the same role in 1995 was supposed to strengthen John Major. And look how that ended.

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11 comments:

Anonymous said...

Why would anyone torture themselves through an election for Deputy Leader for the privilege of being ignored by Brown? Even his Foreign Secretary has his speeches hacked apart by number ten.

The only candidate who could raise money quickly for a short campaign would be John Cruddas. What businessman in his right mind would want to donate to Johnson and the others. Cruddas could get his union chums to write a cheque within a week. It's pretty ironic that union money currently looks the cleanest around...

Anonymous said...

I think that Alan Johnson could be a PM in waiting. He would win trade union backing and has the charm to attract much wider support.

Labourista said...

Cruddas won (by a decent stretch) in the first round of voting - and was the best candidate by far. If it comes to it, he should stand again!

Letters From A Tory said...

There is no way that they could hold a deputy leadership contest without embarrassing the party, so the winner would be unlikely to have a significant impact on the party's fortunes.

Dave said...

Cruddas actually walked the Deputy Leadership in terms of votes cast - it was only the massive weighing that MPs get in the electoral college that stopped him (and saved Johnson from going out secvond after Blears). See this article I wrote at the time:

http://www.compassonline.org.uk/article.asp?n=719

Anonymous said...

There are rumours swirling around Jack Straw that make it unlikely he would dare raise his head above the parapet at this time.

Greater Manchester Fabians said...

Hi

We’ve got 2 debates on the Greater Manchester Fabians blog that I’d like you to respond to:

1) Most important political figures to come from the Greater Manchester area.
2) Most important political events in the history of Manchester (and surrounding areas).
You can respond by going to http://gtrmancfabians.blogspot.com/
Hopefully the responses will help inform future activity.

Cheers
Graham
Greater Manchester Fabian Society

Ps: drop me an email at ManchesterFabians@googlemail.com if you want to be added to the email list.

Scary Biscuits said...

Paul,

I think the bigger question is whether there will be a leadership contest in the next six months.

On the greater manchester fabians, I think the greatest is still to come. The movement is waiting for somebody who can break away once-great cities like manchester from their dependancy culture. It should be embarrassing to Manchester fabians that they rely on the charity of southerners to feed their families. What happened to worker's pride and industry?

Croydonian said...

Johnson's site is still up. Foresight, perhaps?

David said...

Firstly, 'scary biscuits', Manchester already is the greatest city in the UK - can you actually name a British city which is better?

Secondly, there's no way that Cruddas should win - if you remember it was Cruddas who pledged support for Harman in the beginning. Johnson should run and he'd win it.

Man in a Shed said...

Jack's on the radio saying how angry Labour party members are with the funding scandal. So looks like he's started campaigning already .... Still you have to assume that Harman and her husband know where the New Labour bodies are buried. If they sacrifice her then there's going to be trouble.