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.

Friday, January 26, 2007

I am to the left of Cruddas

Well ... at least on two issues.

I buy Labour Left Briefing - on a "know your enemy" basis - from the guys selling it at my CLP GC meeting each month (John Stewart and Graham Bash from its editorial team are members of the same CLP as me).

The new edition carries an article by Owen Jones of the Socialist Youth Network denouncing Cruddas as the candidate for Deputy Leader of the "union bureaucracy" and "the spoonful of sugar to help the medicine of Brown" and quoting Red Pepper's profile of him in 2001: "Ambitious ultra Blair loyalist - though that will seemlessly transfer as soon as it becomes apparent that Blair is on the slide".

Anyway, justification for my headline is that the article told me that Jon voted for foundation hospitals (I was publicly against them as a PPC) and that he wants to reduce the union vote at Annual Conference from 50% to 33% (I think we should stick with the constitutional status quo).


Anonymous HenryG said...

The fact that the Labour Left Briefing editorial team are not in raptures about Cruddas is not necessarily a bad thing in my view!

Luke do you think Hazel Blears will stand, and if not would you say colleagues in Labour First might be inclined to support. Hilary Benn?

10:03 am, January 26, 2007

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

I hope/think Hazel will run.

I would have thought people I know around Labour First will variously back different candidates - some of them get on well with Cruddas through union and parliamentary connections, some of the people closest to Brown might back Harman, others will think Straw is a good safe pair of hands if he runs.

It's a bit early to tell still.

10:13 am, January 26, 2007

Anonymous HenryG said...

I got a leaflet through today saying that Nick Brown will be speaking at Jon Cruddas' campaign event in Newcastle next month. Thought that was interesting.

10:23 am, January 26, 2007

Anonymous Caroline said...

Luke, many of the Socialist Campaign Group of MPs - such as Leyton and Wanstead MP Harry Cohen - voted for Foundation Hospitals. I woyuld hardly call Harry Cohen right wing!

10:44 am, January 26, 2007

Anonymous HenryG said...

'I would hardly call Harry Cohen right wing!'

Labour Left Briefing probably would...

11:01 am, January 26, 2007

Anonymous soft lefty said...

I think with Foundation Hospitals that the proposal had altered so fundamentally through backbench pressures that by the time the Bill got to the vote it probably wasn't worth opposing. As I'm sure you know, Luke, being inclined to vote with the government does not actually mean you agree with the policy in its entirety.

On the party reform proposals, I don't think it will surprise you to hear that Labour Left Briefing's interpretation of this is at best taken out of context and at worst an outright distortion.

LLB can spin with the best of them...

11:19 am, January 26, 2007

Anonymous Anonymous said...

SYN and Comrade Jones in particular are mad, bad, and sad. Why he feels the need to concentrate his loon attacks on Jon Cruddas rather than the usual "Blairite/Nu-Labour" targets beats me! He should be concentrating on building up support for his beloved John McDonnell, not alienating people on the soft Left by needlessly criticising Cruddas.

12:22 pm, January 26, 2007

Anonymous Owen said...

How was it a distortion, softy lefty? It was a direct quote!

This is what Cruddas and Harris write in Fit For Purpose:
"The settlement of the party's federal structure along lines that have been taking shape for the last two decades. Labour's decision-making bodies - the National Executive Committee (NEC), the National Policy Forum (NPF), the annual conference - should be founded on a model in which a third is given over to the membership, a third to the unions, and a third to a new force made up of MPs, MEPs, Labour representatives in local government, and socialist societies. "

How is my "interpretation of this is at best taken out of context and at worst an outright distortion"? Does he or does he not advocate reducing the union vote to a third at Conference?

12:25 pm, January 26, 2007

Anonymous Owen said...

What I failed to point out in the article is the fact he also wants to reduce the CLP vote to a third and give the PLP etc a share of the vote.

The problem is this goes further than that what most Blairites (including Luke) advocate. I know you think that this is just hard left purism etc etc - but if that's what you get called for opposing a further weakening of the union link, then it shows how far the political centre of gravity has shifted to the right in our movement.

My attitude would change on this issue if Cruddas were to make clear that he has changed his mind and will not push for a reduced role for the unions (and indeed party) at Conference if he is elected deputy leader.

12:35 pm, January 26, 2007

Anonymous soft lefty said...

It is a distortion for a number of reasons.

Firstly, because the whole set of proposals is intended primarily as a rejoinder to Alan Johnson's plan to abolish the electoral college and reduce the union block vote to 15% at conference as a response to the unions merging and choosing to vote together.

What Cruddas attempts to do is set out an alternative set of reforms that are based on consistent principles - maintaining a federal, pluralist party with the link, organised around the electoral college rather than replacing it.

Secondly, because the whole point would be that the organisation of conference would fundamentally change along with its make up, with wider debate and democratic decision making - and conference decisions actually respected. At the moment the unions can vote through anything they like but it makes no difference save for one day's headlines.

Thirdly, you suggest that the PLP would get a third of the vote but that's not exactly true. What Cruddas proposes is that backbench representatives like the Parliamentary Committee, plus MSPs and AMs, local councillors and socialist societies get representation. This is fundamentally different to the way that this third section has been used in, say, the Welsh and London selections, and would not be a leadership stitch up. Look at the PC - five of the six members have rebelled and one of them's a member of the Campaign Group.

Fourthly, this would actually increase the unions representation on the NPF, which is actually a rather more influential body in the current set up anyway.

Finally, nothing could be agreed without the necessary two thirds majority of conference anyway, and that could only happen with the agreement of the unions. I think Cruddas has also made clear that no change can happen without there being a consensus among the unions rather than imposition from the leadership, whether he is part of that leadership or not.

You are presenting a defence of the union link and promotion of a more democratic party structure for as the exact opposite - that's why it's a distortion.

12:50 pm, January 26, 2007

Anonymous Ian G said...

So on the one hand Jon is the candidate of 'union bureaucracy' and on the other hand he wants to limit the influence of erm... union bureacracy on annual conference.

Does SYN believe that systematically annoying everyone else in the Labour Party is the best way to go about achieving it's ends?

12:52 pm, January 26, 2007

Anonymous Anonymous said...

In all fairness, that would be with an increase in union representation in the NPF.

Owens article is, without offence, silly, miscalculated and ill intentioned at best.

Vote Brown! ;o)

1:23 pm, January 26, 2007

Anonymous Owen said...

Softy lefty,

Once again, you have not given any reason why what I wrote was a distortion. I wrote that Cruddas proposed reducing the union vote at Conference to a third. That is an objective fact. You have come up with some potential justifications for this move - but that doesn't detract from the fact. Basically, you are excusing me of distortion because I haven't come up with a defence of why reducing the union vote at Conference would be a good idea.

I don't think the fact it is a "rejoinder" to Alan Johnson's even worse proposal is a good defence. Cruddas' response should have been a defence of the existing set up - not to suggest a worse option rather than an even worse option.

Neither am I sure how, as a sweetener, reduced power of the unions at conference would be accompanied by respect for conference decisions. That, of course, would be up to the Prime Minister. Call me cynical, but if Brown is elected, I don't think that he is going to respect existing conference decisions (such as renationalisation of the railways or a moratorium on PFI) and a proposed mechanism for ensuring that he does is unclear.

I have not suggested that the PLP will get a third of the vote. I said "the PLP etc" as shorthand after quoting a passage which made clear exactly what Cruddas was suggesting. Nonetheless, I am deeply opposed to giving the PLP, Euro MPs or even councillors their own slice of votes at Conference - in my view, that it is profoundly undemocratic and will further take power away from party activists and trade unionists.

Of course I support increasing union representation on the NPF - but it should not be also accompanied by a reduction of the union vote at Conference (supposedly the sovereign body of the party). Indeed, we should support granting the unions the same share of the vote as they have at Conference.

Once again, I think it is deeply dishonest of you to present what I wrote as a distortion (or indeed an "outright lie"). My statement was completely factual and indeed based around a direct quote. I'm not going to retract my suggestion that Cruddas supports reducing the union vote at Conference - because that is exactly what he does.

I cannot support a candidate who, as has already been made clear, is to the right of Luke Akehurst on this crucial issue. Deputy leadership candidates such as Benn have not proposed such a reactionary change. I just hope that Cruddas can change his mind - and then I a more than happy to stop making a song and dance about it.

1:44 pm, January 26, 2007

Anonymous David Floyd said...

Well, if Owen doesn't support Cruddas, it's hard to see why he shouldn't say so and explain why.

Cruddas isn't the Campaign Group's candidate for Deputy.

I think that's probably a good thing for all concerned.

Comrades on the McDonnell-supporiting wing of the left will have to decide, when it comes to the vote, who is their least worst option for Deputy Leader - once Jeremy Corbyn and Alan Simpson have failed to make the ballot.

Assuming Cruddas gets on the ballot himself, I'd imagine he'd be least worst option but you never know.

1:47 pm, January 26, 2007

Anonymous Adam said...

I'm sorry, Owen, your article is ridiculous.

2:27 pm, January 26, 2007

Anonymous Owen said...

I should clarify that I am personally against a left candidate standing for the deputy leadership. I think it would be a huge tactical error. In my own view, there will be no left deputy candidate in this race. Corbyn is definitely not going to launch a campaign.

I wonder how many people have actually read the article - it is not (and wasn't intended) as a hatchet job against Cruddas. It recognised his plus points, attempted to explain why he stood, gave a rational explanation of why the unions are so keen to back him, and explained why I don't think the left should back him. Above all, it was intended as a plea for the left to just ignore the contest and avoid polemicising against the Cruddas campaign. Hence it ended:

"The truth is that the deputy leadership race is a distraction. Our focus must be on the leadership race, where the real fight over the future direction of the Party will be fought. We have the good fortune to have one of the most committed a consistent supporters of workers' rights, civil liberties and peace in the histoy of our Party standing for the leadership. Let's focus on beating Brown - and leave the deputy leadership 'beauty contest' well alone."

My own intention was to accordingly avoid making any further comments about Cruddas - unfortunately I was attacked on this blog on the grounds my "interpretation of this is at best taken out of context and at worst an outright distortion." I didn't think this was at all fair and unfortunately got sucked into yet another discussion about Cruddas' proposed changes to the party structure.

Obviously when it comes to it, a decision will have to be made about which deputy leadership candidate support given the contest is dominated by ultra-Blairites. However, I don't think it's fair for me to be denounced as a mad ultra-left headbanger because I have a problem with Cruddas' proposal to reduce the union (or indeed party) vote at Conference - which, as Luke has made clear on this blog, even someone on the very right of the party takes issue with.

Finally, I'd make a plea for there to be a comradely debate about issues like this. I have to put up with daily attacks on John McDonnell - but I recognise his critics are not going to be won over by refusing to engage with them and simply denouncing them out of hand.

3:17 pm, January 26, 2007

Blogger Sham said...

Finally, I'd make a plea for there to be a comradely debate about issues like this.

Ha ha! The loony Left talking about using comradely language. Tell me, Owen, what's comradely about describing our leader, our democratically elected party leader and Prime Minister as a "war criminal", "mass murderer" and "liar"?

Like all cowards you're able to dish it out but you can't take it.

3:38 pm, January 26, 2007

Anonymous Simon said...

Having just scoured around the flat for my copy of LLB, and having read the article, I can't see anything that is a distortion - let alone an outright lie. Perhaps someone could point one out?

Owen is essentially right: the Deputy Leadership is a non-job. Most would ignore it in favour of more important posts such as Chancellor, Home or Foreign Secretary. So why are such big-hitters going aspiring for the Deputy Leadership? I'd guess that they've calculated Brown might do badly and this might be a good springboard to the next leadership contest in the near future.

For those of us seeking to shift the Government closer to the labour and trade union movement, who becomes DL is a sideshow. It's the Leader who sets the agenda.

There's also nothing dishonest with pointing out that Jon's voting record is fairly weak compared with his recent lefty statements.

Owen seems to have hit a nerve though given the hysterical opprobrium levelled at him.

3:49 pm, January 26, 2007

Anonymous Bob said...

The Prime Minister lied to take us to war and is, by virtue of launching that aggressive war, a war criminal.

As to mass murderer, he is partially responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocent Iraqis and Afghans.

Liar, war criminal, mass murderer - cap seems to fit.

3:56 pm, January 26, 2007

Blogger Sham said...

"Liar, war criminal, mass murderer - cap seems to fit."

But is it comradely ...

4:01 pm, January 26, 2007

Anonymous Bob said...


But Blair is not my comrade (see aforementioned reasons . . . for a start).

The insults against Owen as "ridiulous", "silly", "liar" have not even attempted justification - and are, as is all too often the case on the web, just abuse in lieu of reasoned argument.

4:12 pm, January 26, 2007

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sham can hardly think that some of Mr Blair's pronouncements have been either comradely or collegial for that matter. Jon Cruddas is not especially of the left, if at all. But he is from the streets if you get my drift and that has been seen as in advantage in the past. He also appears to be a better organiser and thinker and speller and speaker and, who knows, ********* than Mr Prescott.

Simon and Owen are right that this is a non job, or has been, but things might change with a capable incumbent. Will Gordon want that change to take place, make DL a real job?

4:13 pm, January 26, 2007

Anonymous soft lefty said...

I said it was at best taken out of context and at worst a distortion. I think the lack of context in itself distorted any reasonable understanding of the proposal, which you did seem to making out was a random vicious attack on the unions link.

I may come back to that, but in the meantime, I am curious Owen about your claim that the unions have bunged Cruddas £200,000. Do you have any evidence for this?

In response to your more general point, which I am pleased to say seemed a little more reasonable than previously, obviously I accept that Cruddas is nowhere near as left wing as you and that is a perfectly valid reason for your not backing Cruddas in any active way.

What I found rather more objectionable was what seemed to be a desire to deny the existence of any space between yourselves and Brown, when I'm afraid a very large number of us do occupy that very ground and consider that we come from a perfectly legitimate tradition within the party.

Certainly as legitimate as those represented by yourself and Luke but sometimes there seems to be a conspiracy to deny this on the part of both your factions, one that I think does warrant the robust response that has been forthcoming.

4:42 pm, January 26, 2007

Anonymous susan press calder valley clp said...

It's increasingly clear why many on the soft left (including the unions) are backing Cruddas. It's a handy get-out clause for them selling their members down the river and helping Brown to take over without a contest.
Compass have gone the wholehog and endorsed him (much to the annoyance of many Compass members) Woodley,Prentis et al know they don't have a leg to stand on if they choose to support a potential leader whose policies and plans ( and fair play, Brown is an honest man and makes absolutely no bones about it) are almost wholly against the principles they claim to espouse.
Woodley, in particular, should have nailed his colours to John McDonnell's mast months ago if he really meant what he was saying at left meetings at Labour Conference .But talk is cheap.
Does anyone really think that if/when Big Gordon gets the big job he will do a comradely double act with ANYONE. He's been there,done that,and hated every minute of it thankyou v much.Those of you drooling at the prospect of DL Cruddas are deluding yourselves.It won't change a thing.
I have nothing at all against the man. I met him recently and he's affable, streetsmart, and I would probably enjoy a pint and a discussion (comraedly of course) in the pub . But at the end of the day, the Deputy Leadership is a non-job and,frankly, a non-issue. What a shame sp many in the Party are in denial and won't come out fighting for a socialist leader.Or at least a contest where we can argue the issues and try and find common ground on to work together. If there is a "coronation", I forecast that we'll lose the next election. How can Joe/Joanna Public respect a party that is scared to have an open and fair debate? Sorry, make that the Parliamentary Labour Party, because they are the worst offenders of all.

5:42 pm, January 26, 2007

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Erm, I have an idea, why don't we all settle this argument in a furious game of blogging paintball. Go over to my blog now and you can sign up to settle your differences

5:43 pm, January 26, 2007

Anonymous David Floyd said...

"Compass have gone the wholehog and endorsed him (much to the annoyance of many Compass members)"

Compass haven't endorsed Cruddas, we've called a ballot of members in which they'll get to choose their preferred DL candidate from those currently declared.

"... a clear majority of Management Committee members are recommending support for Jon Cruddas."

Members who are annoyed by that have the opportunity to vote for alternative candidates for Deputy Leader and - subsequently - to remove the Management Committee at this year's elections, if they're unhappy with what's taken place.

6:06 pm, January 26, 2007

Anonymous soft lefty said...

Susan - the problem is that as a soft lefty I don't necessarily feel a great deal more ideological empathy for McDonnell than I do for Brown. One is way to my left and the other is way to my right. We shall see who comes closest to me in the months ahead.

I wish there were a soft left candidate I could vote for in the main game, but there ain't - but I'm going to hold up my hands and say that's our fault as a stream of party opinion for failing to organise ourselves in the PLP or at grassroots level.

The problem is that you can hardly turn it round and say it's OUR fault if YOU'RE not sufficiently organised either.

It's all a bit of a shame though, because I do actually agree with you and Owen that we deserve a contest not a coronation.

6:23 pm, January 26, 2007

Anonymous dan said...

Soft lefty... Out of interest, which of McDonnell's policies don't you support?

6:34 pm, January 26, 2007

Anonymous susan press calder valley CLP said...

But, soft lefty, we ARE organised. John got 400 people along last week in Lewes - people like Owen and countless others ( not least McDonnell himself) have been working themselves into the ground for six long months and there's loads of support for a proper debate in the CLPs and even more so the Trade Unions.
The major problem is a system which, as you may or not recall, was doctored some years back to give the PLP undue weight in the electoral college. Kinnock raised the bar to 44 Mps following sundry unsuccessful bids to oust him in the 1980s and in 1992.OK, that is what it is and we knew those rules from Day 1.What has frankly astonished me is the supine way in which the vast majority of MPs are treating this leadership issue.I'll be frank. A Gordon shoo-in might well have passed without a murmur even from myself several years ago but Gord - and the Party - has travelled some way since then. We've also had the sleaze, the coppers knocking on the door,Iraq dragging on and on and on.It's a terrible, terrible mess. And for the PLP to complacently sit back and allow a new leader to be installed without even a whisper about the issues. Well, how is that going to play with the electorate.Soviet-style transitions in the UK. I don't think so.
Agree or disagree, John McDonnell is a man of principle who deserves a wider audeince.And I cannot believe the "soft left" is so woollythat it does not stand for peace and democratic socialism. We may disagree on the details but these are desperately important matters. We should not be disenfranchised. Party members who for 12 long years have put up with the gradual erosion of their democratic structures now face the prospect of a seamless transition from New Labour to, er, New Labour.More of the same punishment. Is that what you REALLY want? I am lobbying my MP and urging others to do the same. A ballot on the leadership is absolutely vital and there's everything to play for.You don't have to sign up to everything we stand for to agree with that.

8:47 pm, January 26, 2007

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Susan I too would like to see John McDonnell to get onto the ballot paper for different reasons. But you cannot cheat the balance of forces and the hard left is simply too weak in number in parliament. John for a variety of reasons has not been able to attract all of the Campaign Group, never mind soft left colleagues. How do you think he could have done that?

11:42 am, January 27, 2007

Anonymous susan press calder valley CLP said...

Henry, In 1981, at the Brighton conference, Tribune MPs (then a significant number in the PLP) split and some deliberately voted so that Tony Benn was denied the deputy Leader post for which he had overwhelming grassroots support.
Neil Kinnock, Stan orme, Joan lestor.There were a few more but can't remember.Margaret Beckett, then a fervent Bennite, threw money at Kinnock during the subsequent Tribune Rally and called him a"Judas." How far we have travelled. But the left has a pretty long history of screwing things up.
I have no idea why people like Alan Simpson have been so disruptive to John's campaign. I understand he may have wanted to stand as Deputy with Meacher as Leadership candidate.Who knows?
BTW Meacher has gone pretty quiet so I hope that particular blind alley is closed off. Simpson has said whichever left candidates gets the most nominations will get his vote and my guess is that in the end most will line up on the left side ofthings.
However, the Campaign Group is also a fairly amorphous blend of left-wingers and mavericks like Austin Mitchell (once regarded as very much on the right of the Party!) Some I have spoken to seemed wearied by the struggle (before it began) and pretty defeatist.
On the other hand, we now have a situation where the only candidate to the right of Brown has been hoist by his own "hard man" petard.Number 11 must be in tucks.
But mo contest, no real victory.Brown will pay dearly if there isn't a leadership election. So will we.I know plenty of people who have only stayed in the Party so they can vote for a left candidate.If they can't, then they will be off.
You're quite right, at the moment the left (can't be doing with all this "hard" and "soft" nonsense) is very weak in the PLP.That does not reflect the feeling in the constituencies ( vis a vi NEC elections) and the trade unions (69 per cent of delegates @ TUC conference said they would vote for John McDonnell).I would say the PLP has a responsibility to ensure there IS an election.I still think many MPs can be persuaded - in the interests of the Party, the long-term, and our prospects of winning the next election.A shoo-in for Gordon is a no-brainer.But, yes, the left must re-build - and whatever happens, John McDonnell's campaign has been an admirable and brave positive in that direction.

12:26 pm, January 27, 2007

Anonymous Simon said...

I'd be fascinated to know what someone who describes themselves as "soft left" would find to disagree with in McDonnell's policies?

Please enlighten . . .

1:08 pm, January 27, 2007

Anonymous Pete said...

Softy lefty said: "I am curious Owen about your claim that the unions have bunged Cruddas £200,000"

I was intrigued too - I don't know any unions where their Exec has discussed this. However, the Grauniad said £125k in October 2006 - so Owen may be right . . .

See grauniad at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/afghanistan/story/0,,1922988,00.html

1:21 pm, January 27, 2007

Anonymous angus said...

Sorry Owen, but although I'm not convinced by the Cruddas proposals on conference I don't think they are inherently either 'right wing' or an attack on the union link for the reasons others have outlined. After all, Tony Benn advocated the integration of the PLP into conference at one point in the 1980s (see 'Labour and the Unions: The Contentious Alliance' by Lewis Minkin)

3:23 pm, January 27, 2007

Anonymous Anonymous said...

But how will Cruddas find the time to appear in On The Buses as Reg Varney and be Deputy Leader of the Labour Party? I'm all for an integrated transport policy but I don't think this been thought through.

5:36 pm, January 27, 2007

Anonymous Anonymous said...

How amused Luke must be to see all this soft left / hard left bickering going on through his very own blog. I would have thought Luke would pay good money to see this sort of thing and here you all are providing it for free. Luke - is it your birthday or something?

5:46 pm, January 27, 2007

Anonymous soft lefty said...

dan/simon - fair question, I'll do my best to answer it based on what I've seen of McDonnell to date. Please note though I've not actually made any final decisions on what to do re the leadership.

I would roughly divide the "problematic" positions of McDonnell's platform in to three different areas - those I just outright disagree with him on; those that the soft left itself is divided on so many will disagree with him about; and those where I have sympathy with his intentions, but I nonetheless think are impractical or electorally unviable, or won't produce the results intended.

In the first category I would put positions such as immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, full maintenance grants for *all* students and aspects of his pensions policy; into the second I would put his broad attitude to constitutional reform (esp the electoral system), opposition to the euro and EU Constitution, nuclear power and aviation; and into the third I would put matters such as nationalising the pharmaceutical and medical research industries, immediate termination of all existing PFI contracts, making it illegal to own more than two properties and his projections for the revenue raised by his tax plans. Nor would I make the "right of return" for Palestinian refugees and inviolable principle of the Middle East peace process. These are examples, not an exhaustive list.

Maybe all that makes me a class traitor or whatever, and I'm not going to get in to a detailed argument on any of the above issues here, but I hope you'll have to accept that there are genuine differences.

Also, there are matters of style, strategy, and so on which are important to me. That's not the same as personality though, I'm sure he's a perfectly nice guy!

3:35 pm, January 28, 2007

Anonymous susan press calder valley CLP said...

Soft left, having read your list I'm afraid I must conclude you are not "left" at all.
Your list of objections only confirms to me just how great it would be if we had a socialist Leader . How can you oppose stopping drug companies profiteering, actively seeking peace instead of warmongering, and allowibg students to stuydy and learn without being crippled by debt> In what respect are these possibly "left" positions. Roy Hattersley would probably agree with most of the policies you don't like.But then sadly in today's Labour Party he's probably way to the left ofmany.

6:48 pm, January 28, 2007

Anonymous soft lefty said...

"Soft left, having read your list I'm afraid I must conclude you are not "left" at all."

The problem you have is that I am not only far to the left of the average voter, but well to the left of both the PLP and the party membership. Oh, and definitely to the left of Roy Hattersley. Which leaves anyone so left wing that they find nothing to agree with me about doomed to isolation on the far left fringe.

I don't love big pharma companies, indeed I'd love to nationalise them and make them a branch of the NHS, but I just don't think it's actually practical to do so, not without paying huge amounts of compensation anyway. It would be illegal under EU law, and they would just relocate to other countries anyway.

I believe that immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq and Afghanistan would most likely lead to more death and destruction, not less.

As for students, full maintenance grants to all students would be extremely regressive, and no I don't care if affluent middle class kids have to borrow a bit of cash to go to Uni. This is an issue where I oppose both the Blairites and the hard left with equal vehemence.

Anyway, I didn't intend to get in to a line by line argument about this because we're never going to agree, but it's still a bit sad that your response is to snarl that anyone who doesn't agree with every point of John McDonnell's platform is a profiteering, warmongering, right-wing sell out.

Is that how he would deal with internal debates if he were leader? That is another of my concerns.

8:15 pm, January 28, 2007

Anonymous tom said...

"Is that how he would deal with internal debates if he were leader? That is another of my concerns."

why is it all anti-mcdonnellites conflate mcdonnell with his supporters? thus, if a supporter says something, it's effectively come from the mouth of mcdonnell? do you not think this is absurd?

do you think susan press is mcdonnell? are you simple or something?

8:38 pm, January 28, 2007

Anonymous soft lefty said...

I expressed a concern. It is just that - a concern. I obviously wasn't conflating Susan Press with John McDonnell, she just reminded me of one of my reservations.

But, as I have repeatedly said, I've not yet formed a complete view on McDonnell.

10:22 pm, January 28, 2007

Anonymous tom said...

mcdonnell has said repeatedly that he'd return to broad tent government, and would include people from all wings of the party. he has pledged to restore democracy to the labour party - including actually following conference decisions - and would devolve decision-making powers to members. contrast that to the current situation.

a vote for brown will just mean more top-down new labour policies - even more so, arguably, given he's far more of a control freak than blair. it will mean excluding the left and centre of the party. it will mean leaving the unions out in the cold. party activists will continue to have little or no role in policy making. the same old new labour policies will continue to drive members away from the party.

it's your choice, really, soft lefty.

10:32 pm, January 28, 2007

Anonymous angus said...

Softy lefty,

thanks for making clear your position. I don't agree with susan press that your concerns put you right of centre in the party. I don't want to debate the policies, but just to clarify some points-

1.) Brown shares McDonnell's opposition to the Euro and electoral reform

2.) John's position on withdrawal from Iraq:
(http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/sunday_am/6096228.stmJohn is)

HUW EDWARDS: Let's just pick up one or two specific things. On Iraq you'd pull out, regardless of the consequences? You'd just pull the troops out and let them get on with it?

JOHN MCDONNELL: Of c..., of course not. The issue for us now is to recognise we've made a mistake in Iraq. I voted against it and I, a lot of us argued - and you'll be interviewing Ming - and other people across party argued that this was wrong, a mistake.

What we should do now is accept we've made a mistake, go back to the United Nations and appeal to the rest of the world to help us in engaging in that withdrawal.

3.)McDonnell has pledged to go back to collective government with a cabinet drawn from left, right and centre of the party and recognised the necessity to keep the party together. If he didn't, I for one would not be in support. As he has said:

"The Labour Party always described themselves as a broad church. That's true. A huge coalition - not just in terms of the formation of the membership of the party, but also its support base...What this campaign is all about is winning back the Labour Party to a position where avowed socialists can say that this is where we want the party to go, and win the argument within that coalition."

It is, as he has said, a Gramscian strategy of advance on the basis of winning the argument.

Nationalising pharmaceuticals isn't one of the key policies McDonnell is standing on, if indeed he is standing on it at all. McDonnell's election would shift the centre of gravity of Labour's broad coalition to the left, but as outlined above that doesn't mean he would seek (or given a realistic assessment of the balance of forces in the PLP would be able) to impose his own personal preferences on every aspect of policy, overriding the concerns of others.

12:53 am, January 29, 2007

Anonymous Duncan said...

It's amazing that this thread has managed to drift from the intriguing possibility that Luke is more left-wing that Jon Cruddas (which I suspect he probably is - although that's not to say I won't vote for Cruddas, I haven't seen the full line-up of candidates yet and some of what Cruddas says is reasonably interesting) to a big debate about why the soft left may or may not support John McDonnell. Whoever anybody ends up with for either position, a relatively small number of people in the party is going to believe absolutely everything that they believe: there is a small Blairite grouping who support Blair on most issues, and there'll no doubt be one for Brown too. I'm part of one for McDonnell, and I guess there'd be one for a 'soft left' or 'centre-left' candidate if there were one. A mass party - that is really a broad coalition - will never find a leader whose beliefs are agreeable to all. We all think everybody should agree with us - we wouldn't be human if we didn't - and we're all entitled to try and persuade each other - but electing a leader is not the same as writing a manifesto. Which candidate will include the most members of this coalition in the decision-making process? Certainly McDonnell in my view. Of course, the possibility (I think a slight one) which would include the least of us, would be if there weren't even a contest at the leadership election. We should all be trying to avoid that, so I would encourage even people on the right of the party to persuade any Labour MPs to nominate John and help ensure that we have a democratic choice.

Does anyone know if MPs are allowed to nominate more than one candidate?

10:15 am, January 29, 2007

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

Custom & practice in every previous leadership election was to allow each MP to make more than one nomination then withdraw the "surplus" ones during the process as it became clear whether candidates stood any chance of getting nominated.

10:39 am, January 29, 2007

Anonymous susan press calder valley CLP said...

Soft lefty, Someone else has already pointed out that John McDonnell has NOT called for "immediate withdrawal" of troops from Iraq.
I did not mean to "snarl." And apologies if I did.But tuition and top-up fees are indefensible and I tend to see red when they are defended.
I went to Cambridge University and like all working-class kids of my generation did not pay a penny in maintenance or fees. Those opportunities should still be there. And an income threshold for parents of £30,000 does not make up for that.Ask my sister.She and her husband earn between them just over the limit. My nephew won't be going to university because he knows they can't afford to pay for two teenagers at uni.These are not spoilt rich kids.They are odinary kids with parents who have very ordinary jobs. Our core voters. They get no help with the fees and are absolutely anti-Labour now.
Look at the opinion polls today.Labour's crashing through the floor .People want the troops home from Iraq, they want a decent NHS, the chance for a decent education for their kids. Blair's policies ( and by extension Brown's) aren't delivering.There may not be the middle ground you would wish for. But as things stand I just don't see how anyone who is allegedly of the "left" could prefer a shoo-in for Brown and all that goes with it to democratic socialism.I hope otherscan persuade you.......

12:09 pm, January 29, 2007

Anonymous soft lefty said...

Angus - thanks for your thoughtful reply. I suspect Luke's blog isn't the place for a detailed debate on this but I'll certainly consider your points.

Just to clarify - I got details of JM's policies from the J4L website - that's where I got the pharma thing and the rest of it. Don't want you to think I just made it all up or anything!

Duncan - thanks also. I would like to see a contest in which both hard and soft left candidates stand as well as a Blairite candidate. Unfortunately that won't happen (the soft left is still too weak, though it's a shame that someone from roughly the centre like Benn didn't have the balls for it) but I still hope that there is a contest, it's the only way to get a democratic feel for the respective strengths of the different streams in the party at the moment.

Still, perhaps we might at least manage to use it to have a sensible and comradely debate.

2:00 pm, January 29, 2007

Anonymous duncan said...

You're right soft lefty. Labour Party members deserve a contest.

3:16 pm, January 29, 2007

Anonymous michael said...

Why not between John Reid and Gordon Brown? Realistically, I can't see McDonnell or Meacher getting the 45-odd nominations. at the mioment its looking like a coronation

3:45 pm, January 29, 2007

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Because a battle between John Reid and Gordon Brown would be purely based on personalities, not a debate over policies or the future direction of the party.

Both Brown and Reid have supported and implemented New Labour policies - whether that be privatisation, war, or attacks on civil liberties. There would be no question raised during such a contest of changing political direction. The party and trade unions would be left out in the cold - indeed, the party's policies (such as trade union rights, an end to privatisation of the NHS, direct investment in council housing, renationalisation of the railways, etc) wouldn't even be mentioned.

Yes, there is a personal schism between Reid and Brown dating back to the early 80s. Yes, they may will adopt a different tone. But with both united on all the key policies, what sort of contest is that?

A contest between Brown and McDonnell will offer party members and trade unionists a clear choice about the future of the party. It will focus on policies, not personalities. It's in the interests of the right of the party for there to be such a debate.

3:59 pm, January 29, 2007

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would also point out that numerous MPs have now pledged to sign John's nomination papers, some on the basis that there should be a debate. When it is clear that there will be no other candidates standing (which is increasingly likely), I am convinced that many others will do likewise.

4:07 pm, January 29, 2007

Anonymous susan press calder valley CLP said...

That's good news,Owen.Glad to hear it I think many MPs DO want a contest, on all wings of the Party.
The grassroots members certainly do.And inthe unions , as you know, there is major support for John.

4:17 pm, January 29, 2007

Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's not as grim up north as you sometimes portray. It's not clear to me that the members do want a contest for the leader. Certainly the press want a bun fight, and those who want the tories back because they can sit around festering and formenting. The party's in a mess, we need to bring back some credibility. We've got a real fight to keep councillors without you going on about your cambridge education and thinking that should impress us.

11:42 pm, January 29, 2007

Anonymous Duncan said...

Lord preserve us from Prolier-than-thou rightwingers!!!

Look at the Tories and Howard. They thought that they were showing themselves to be united and determined by denying their members a role in the process: what they showed themselves to be was out of touch and scared of their own grassroots.

A 'take him or leave him' election with Brown as the only candidate would be a disaster for the government, from whichever part of the party you come from.

8:37 am, January 30, 2007

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whoever you are, anonymous,I wasn't "trying to impress" anyone.The Cambridge University bit was in the context of the top-up fees /tuition fees issue.The point I was making was how much harder it is for kids from ordinary backgrounds to afford a university education.And I'm damn sure I wouldn't have gone there now.That was all.

10:38 am, January 30, 2007

Anonymous susan press calder valley clp said...

obviously I meant to put my name to the above.......

10:40 am, January 30, 2007


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