Wednesday, 9 June 2010

In praise of fraternal nominations

So we will have a five candidate contest for the Labour leadership.

Well done to Diane Abbott and Andy Burnham for securing the chance to continue their campaigns campaign. Credit for assists goes to acting leader Harriet Harman, who responded to calls from party members and supporters for MPs to ensure a broader contest and avoid charges of a stitch-up, and to rival candidates John McDonnell, who dropped out to nominate Abbott; David Miliband, who followed through on his offer of a nomination to a rival; and Ed Balls, who asked MPs to nominate Abbott once he had reached the threshold.

Diane Abbott has certainly done better than any other member of the Campaign Group for a couple of decades in building bridges across the party: perhaps Abbott nominees such as David Miliband, Chris Bryant, Harriet Harman and David Lammy could now be given some form of honorary membership of the left-wing caucus, assuming they are not quite ready to sign up.

But this outbreak of comradely fraternalism (and, indeed, sororal solidarity) is proving discombobulating for some. One dissenting voice comes from my Fabian Executive colleague Paul Richards, who regularly contributes a staunch 'no turning back' New Labour voice in his Progress commentaries.

He tweets that:

Some of us spent decades fighting the hard left. Now our MPs are falling over themselves to get the Campaign Group on the ballot. Crazy.

But surely Paul should have more confidence that the Labour membership and electoral college will see things his way?

Indeed, this will be the first time a Campaign Group member has been on the leadership ballot since the Benn-Heffer challenge to Neil Kinnock and Roy Hattersley in the late 1980s.

And we will all get to find out how far the pattern of preferences among MPs and party members differs. To the extent, that there is a somewhat Old Milibandite argument that the Parliamentary Party is suppressing majority support among party members for a much more distinctive vision of the Socialist true faith it is likely to prove somewhat overstated. (Many people forget that Tony Blair won 55% in a 3-way contest the union and affiliates section in 1995, as well as majorities among MPs and party members).

Abbott may well seek to mount a somewhat broader appeal than previous Campaign Group candidates, and the Alternative Vote system allows 'expressive' or symbolic voting on first preferences, much beloved by the French left in the first ballot of their own elections, without losing the opportunity to also vote strategically.

Nobody would predict that Abbott could win the contest. That may, of course, partly explain why so many voices from the right, centre and soft left of the party have taken a rather different view of the virtues for the party of a broader contest than their predecessors may have done in 1981, though Abbott must think she could have some chance of finishing ahead of at least one of her four New(-ish) Labour rivals.


Robert said...

It's a pity for me to hear people say we have been fighting the left for so long.

I left labour after Blair argument that people like myself are work shy scroungers.

I've spent a long long time in the Labour party, Kinnock was my MP, I had to put up with his idea for a long time, then bang he was new labour mind you never before an election he would then drivel about the left socialism and winning the war what ever that was.

To me Labour was always about the working class, sadly in all the years I've been around labour often tended to head for the middle class it had a magic draw for them.

I do not know who I would vote for, now John has stepped down, Abbott carries a lot of baggage with her, telling Blair about his kids going to private school while hers did as well, on the whole I suspect I would vote Abbott, sadly it makes little difference, it does look as if David Miliband will win this one, he is new labour, the new Mp's are mainly new labour, it does look like the days of the working class are over, perhaps one day we will get a party I some how doubt,it, so where does labour stand, we have the Conservative party big business, we have liberals not to sure, we have New labour big business Tory Tory and Liberals.

Think I'll just retire.

Mantiq said...

I also left Labour because of Blair, after the Iraq war when I was shown that Labour was not the party I conceived it to be. I would only come back if I could be shown that it is the party of genuine fairness, not only at home but abroad too.

Abbot adds diversity but it’s not enough. I am really sad to see John McDonnel withdrawing after he could not secure enough nominations. It’s tragic. He talked the straightest out of the lot and was less manipulated by lobbyist groups or conventional politics. I think the four males are too conformist and are not radical enough to simply do the right things based on principle and real fairness. It’s a real shame because even if he was not to make it as party leader, his presence would really shake up the debate and make the others think, if not answer things they may otherwise not be so comfortable in adderessing.

By McDonnel not securing the nominations to me shows that it is a party I am not interested in. It reflects the general mood amongst most people in the party that they don’t want someone who speaks too truthfully, hence why hardly anyone gave him any nominations. Such things are better buried for them. Someone like McDonnel right now would be saying: why is our country, along with other Western countries, forcing themselves in the UN for sanctions on Iran when the wounds of the flotilla attack are still fresh, yet no one is pressing the UN to take serious action in that regard? Instead of taking action to alliviate the suffering of a helpless people we would rather focus on a totally irrelevant matters because it somehow fulfils some sort of evil and bent agenda. Israel is a country that HAS a stockpike of unaccounted weapons but the West chooses to deliberately ignore it (more on this in a relevant thread on the resolution).

It is stil a stitch-up without much diversity and Abbot is only there so that they cannot be accused of participating in such an activity. No excitement for me, I’d rather have Gordon Brown.