Wednesday 28 July 2010

Balls camp is battling Blairites and Bennites

Mehdi Hasan writes in tomorrow's New Statesman about "operation target Ed Miliband", reflecting an increasing focus by rival campaigns on the "insurgent" campaign which increasingly seems to have acquired something close to the status of co-favourite with frontrunner David Miliband.

The piece is based in part on speaking to "sources close to Ed Balls" who, whoever they may be, seem to be raising the stakes.

The piece reports that Balls has told friends he has been squeezed between "“Tony Blair on my right and Tony Benn on my left” - and he didn't mean Diane Abbott.

(We'll add a link when the piece goes online at the NS).

Hasan writes:

Publicly, the Balls campaign is sticking to an “It’s all still to play for” line. Allies of the shadow education secretary have reminded me of the 2007 deputy leadership election. Then, Peter Hain raised the most money and yet came fifth in the first round; Hilary Benn obtained the most CLP nominations but came fourth; Alan Johnson had the most support from MPs but came third. In the end, Harriet Harman, without the endorsement of a single major union, defeated both Johnson and Jon Cruddas, who had the support of Unite.

However, privately, Balls has conceded that he cannot win. Friends say the decisions to endorse Ed Miliband by Unison and, in particular, by Unite (despite the best behind-the-scenes efforts of his friend and fixer Charlie Whelan) have shaken him.

Will he pull out? His closest supporters are adamant that he won’t, but the shadow education secretary has told friends that he feels boxed in by “Tony Blair on my right and Tony Benn on my left”.

Balls is not the only Labour MP to have tagged Ed Miliband as a Bennite. When I mentioned the accusation to Ed Miliband himself, he merely sighed. “I think the public are much more sophisticated than that,” he told me, and: “The idea that campaigning for a living wage or a high pay commission makes you a Bennite is ridiculous.”

Luke Akehurst has provided a good pre-buttal of the idea of Ed Milband being a Trot. And as a somewhat ferocious Trot-basher, Akehurst can claim to know one when he sees one, and moderate social democracy of a type shared by most of the leadership candidates isn't it.

Perhaps all of the candidates have faced caricatures of this kind, though Hasan suggests it is a tactic more likely to backfire than succeed.


For more incisive interrogations of the potential weaknesses of the different candidates, head over to Hopi Sen's blog, where the former Labour staffer and top blogger has decided to make sure he does not get sucked back into the party machine by blogging on 'The Case Against' each of the five candidates.

Sen has begun with both Milibandwagons - try the case against Ed Miliband and the case against David Miliband for starters.

The series is a great blogging idea - and the execution shows it is possible to have serious and critical scrutiny of would-be leaders without descending into caricature.

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