A blog by Luke Akehurst about politics, elections, and the Labour Party - With subtitles for the Hard of Left. Just for the record: all the views expressed here are entirely personal and do not necessarily represent the positions of any organisations I am a member of.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Running scared

Anyone would have thought from reading this article in the Evening Standard that certain declared deputy leadership candidates are frightened by the idea that Hazel Blears might join the contest.

And well they might be. If she wasn't potentially a strong candidate they wouldn't be trying to undermine her like this.

The attempt to smear Hazel for doing the right thing and concentrating on her role as Party Chair until there is actually a vacancy and a contest is the kind of negative politics we don't need right now.


Blogger El Dave. said...

Actually, I think unilaterally cancelling spring conference is a bit bad. It raises accusations (and I'm not saying whether they're true or not) that she might be worried at the prospect of having to make speeches against Benn, Johnson, Cruddas, Hain and Harman.

Remember David Davis?

4:48 pm, November 14, 2006

Anonymous Adele R said...

She is an excellent party chair and someone that I have the utmost respect for; but I don't think she is deputy leader material at all.

7:49 pm, November 14, 2006

Anonymous Duncan said...

You're not actually suggesting that Spring Conference might have been cancelled to help Hazel Blears' deputy leadership chances?? I suspect it has rather more to do with trying to save enough money to run an internal election at all!!! I've no idea who I'll vote for for deputy, and it's very unlikely to be Hazel Blears, but I'm inclined to agree with Luke, that there is a bit of fuss over nothing in the linked article. I suspect their concern is more that Hazel Blears' role as Chair has meant that she has had a happier relationship with the party at large than have beleaguered ministers (although I think Hilary Benn is pretty well thought of in the party) - but that's hardly unfair!

8:24 pm, November 14, 2006

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just don't think Hazel is good enough on TV, but to her credit she has been the best party chair in a while.

Who's after her?

11:32 pm, November 14, 2006

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the concern is over the fact that she is actually drafting the rules for the leadership and deputy contests while pretending that she is not standing herself. This is surely a legitimate worry?

1:01 am, November 15, 2006

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Duncan, that's precisely my point. It's probably more likely that it's a cost-saving issue, but it allows the possibility of attacks such as in the Evening Standard article.

9:31 am, November 15, 2006

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

Anon - The Rules are in the Rulebook which is decided by Conference. Interpretation of them is up to the Party's Constitutional Office, acting on behalf of the General Secretary. I would have though the Chair's role in determining internal party procedures was rather limited - the position is about being the link person between the party in Government & the wider party.

On checking the rule book it looks like Hazel's position is not actually a statutory officer of the Party - I could find no reference to it in the rules, only to the NEC Chair i.e. she has no formal constitutional role in internal party matters beyond being one of the PM's govt appointees to the NEC.

In any case what do you fear she would do? Impose a quota of 50% of the leadership team for ginger women?

9:41 am, November 15, 2006

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Labour is currently mired in allegations of sleaze and corruption. Both because it is the right thing to do and because it is imperative now, Labour should not only be but be seen to be cleaner than clean.

9:44 am, November 15, 2006

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

I'm sorry David but I find the point you are trying to make a bit obscure/random. Being the Minister responsible for linking the Govt to the Party is a qualification for running for deputy leader, not a conflict of interest.

The nature of the job means that everyone and anyone who was Party Chair would potentially be a deputy leadership candidate.

As Hazel is maintaining a dignified silence on this we only have third party gossip to say she is considering running.

10:08 am, November 15, 2006

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Luke - most of the important details of the election process are laid down in the Code of Conduct and Guidance, the Rulebook only deals with the broad brush issues like the voting system.

These are theoretically issued by the NEC but they are drafted and proposed by senior Party officials who will obviously be answerable to Blears.

The Code of Conduct has already been issued and released to the media with a minimum of internal discussion; there are a number of things in it that are potentially biased to Blears and she has most certainly been involved in the process of deciding it.

This may all be unintentional or harmless, but surely it would be better not to allow even the appearance of corruption?

I don't particularly think the Harman camp should have taken this to the press (let alone the Evening Standard!) but there are genuine questions to answer here.

10:17 am, November 15, 2006

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...


which bits of the Code of Conduct are potentially biased? I am genuinely interested to know.

Surely senior Party officials answer to the General Secretary who rather famously was not No10's candidate for the job?

11:57 am, November 15, 2006

Anonymous Thomas said...

Luke - I think Harman and Hain have got themselves a little worked up over very little here. However, if I was working for Hazel, I would have advised her that sitting in on the Org Sub that decided on the code of conduct, and which will decide on balloting time tables etc, is not the most sensible thing to do.

Now, there doesnt seem to be anything in the code that helps or hinders any of the candidates, but she is acting rather naively to think that people won't make up their own minds and think she is acting unfairly. Whether she is acting correctly or not is another matter, but its a bit odd of anyone to suggest she hasn't fallen into a bit of a trap here.

4:30 pm, November 15, 2006

Anonymous Anonymous said...

One thing in the CoC that could be considered distinctly dodgy is the fact that it simply does not deal with the position of the Party Chair, even though it does cover the behaviour of Ministers acting in their Ministerial capacity.

Blears is technically a Minister, of course, but her only Ministerial duty is essentially turning up to Cabinet so she neatly evades the obligations that the CoC places on Ministers who are standing.

The total lack of any regulation of the Party Chair position within the CoC is a pretty glaring omission when combined with Blears' role in getting the CoC through the NEC. It smacks of a stitch up even if it wasn't.

The other thing is that the regulation of funds will hit other candidates who are having to use their own money to get round the country speaking to CLPs etc - while Blears is effectively doing the same using the Labour Party's money in her role as Party Chair.

Ministers are prevented from doing this using taxpayers' money - quite rightly - but the use of Party funds by the Chair is strangely not covered by the CoC.

I don't really see that it is tenable for Blears to continue as Party Chair using her proxies to campaign in the media for the next six months while using OUR money to raise her profile.

Surely you can't think that can go on for the next six months without it at least looking bad?

6:19 pm, November 15, 2006

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just read the e-mail Blears sent to Labour members earlier today and I'm not sure somebody who can't spell "security" is suited to a leadership role in the party.

3:24 am, November 16, 2006

Anonymous HenryG said...

According to Wikipedia Hazel ruled herself out of the Deputy Contest on the Politics Show on BBC1 17th September 2006. She declared she would not run and that her position as Chairman of the Labour Party ruled this out.


4:00 pm, November 16, 2006

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

I think the actual position is that she can't stand while she is Chair.

4:47 pm, November 16, 2006


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