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.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Brown across the line

I was in the audience at the Brown press conference this afternoon and pleased to hear some of the policy thrust - a Constitutional Reform Bill (sounds dull but will help restore public trust in Government), affordable housing (an absolutely key issue in London and the SE) and an immediate priority of sorting out the NHS - which is what voters want and a policy area where we need to reclaim our natural home turf.

Brown was relaxed and cheerful, as most people would be that just got endorsed by 313 of their colleagues would be.

Buried in the nominations from MPs listed on the party website are the first 7 CLPs to nominate Gordon, and the first 3 affiliates. As more and more CLPs meet over the next few weeks it is going to become abundantly apparent that the party in the country is as united behind him as the party in Westminster is.


Anonymous Niamh said...

Who invited you and why ?

5:21 pm, May 17, 2007

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

The Brown campaign. Because I have been actively helping it.

5:37 pm, May 17, 2007

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

Blair? Who was Blair?

5:50 pm, May 17, 2007

Blogger parburypolitica said...

If you don't know who Blair is then you can't be the real Luke Akehurst as he most certainly would know!

6:03 pm, May 17, 2007

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

Now you come to mention it, I do recall some former politician called Blair. Must have slipped my memory. But right now I only have eyes for Gordon, The Great Leader. It's a case of loyalty - something you lefties in the Party know nothing about.

7:54 pm, May 17, 2007

Anonymous Niamh said...

Was everyone who helped the campaign invited.

I have a friend who emailed the site offering to volunteer and no one got back to her. She is a Labout Councillor in West London and really well thought of. There's not even a phone number to call.

How have you helped the campaign?

11:23 pm, May 17, 2007

Anonymous duncan said...

I assume there no longer IS a Brown campaign. I mean, Anthony Eden and Douglas-Home didn't bother with campaigns when they 'emerged' as Prime Ministers, so why should Buggins Brown bother?

1:34 am, May 18, 2007

Blogger Benjamin said...

I wonder if Luke Akehurst could to take a break from reporting the minutiae of the Labour party Leadership "contest", and discuss the latest news from ONS. Britain is now as an inequal society as it was under the worst of years of Thatcher, and the poorest bear the biggest burden in tax.

New Labour, New Britain anyone?

7:19 am, May 18, 2007

Blogger grimupnorth said...

Campaign? Oh please.Does Brown realise he has utterly alienated thousands of members? Probably. Don't suppose he gives a monkey's.Blair should stand down now and allow his dictatorship to begin ASAP.It's a farce.

7:28 am, May 18, 2007

Anonymous jp grahams said...

You are so childlike in your anger! As Luke has pointed out in his excellent analysis in the next post, the hard left havent been good at contesting leadership elections since the 80s. Why did you think McDonnell was going to be different? Why are you blaming Brown personally could it not simply be that more MPs thought he'd make a better leader? That is how the system is meant to work after all. A debate for the sake of debate should not be autmatically expected. After all, I would be very pissed off with MPs if they nominated Shaun Woodward as the only opponent to Brown just for the sake of an official contest.

p.s Your new enthusiasm for pro-war, pro-fees, pro-New Labour Hilary Benn just goes to show how utterly utterly bonkers the far left is.

9:16 am, May 18, 2007

Blogger Benjamin said...

Yes, for all Luke's plucky cheerleading he should realise that there is a basic democratic principle here.

As Luke knows, the party moved away from purely the PLP electing the leader, and I do remember Blair campaigning for one member one vote.

It's only right, after 13 years without an election, the party should put the candidates up for election.

The notion that because its deemed an easy victory for Gordon there is no point in having the election violates a first principle of any democracy: the right to vote (be it taxpayers and citizens in General Elections, or party members and trade unionists in the Labour Party.) That is the first principle Luke, not party bureacracy.

Democrats don't violate such a principle. It's not violated in Bolsover or Buckingham, where election results are foregone conclusions. People still vote.

For democrats, such an argument is answerable, and I doubt Luke will attempt to counter it.

What the PLP did in nominating Brown in such large numbers was to forestall democracy.

Their task was not to vote for Brown. Their task was the initial step in a democratic process: the nomination of canidates to a ballot paper.

By nominating Brown as the only candidate they have behaved liked Communists. Communist countries sometimes have some limited formal democratic structures. But these structures are either sidelined or entirely dominated by the governing party, therefore making a mockery of any putative democratic function. This was what the PLP did: the result is Gordon Brown as the only candidate on a ballot paper and hustings without democratic debate.

9:23 am, May 18, 2007

Blogger Benjamin said...

As Luke has pointed out in his excellent analysis in the next post, the hard left havent been good at contesting leadership elections since the 80s. Why did you think McDonnell was going to be different?

I don't necessarily think that.

But as democrat, such an argument is irrelevant.

In Bolsover, the Conservative Party has never been good at contesting elections. But elections with rival candidates are still held, and people are not denied the vote.

It's called democracy.

9:25 am, May 18, 2007

Anonymous Ian G said...

Benjamin - if you're not a Labour Party member, please don't lecture us about our internal democracy.

Everyone has known the rules of the contest for ten years now, and no one has complained. I'm fairly sure I speak for a majority of party members when I say that if a candidate can't convince 45 of their closest political colleagues to endorse them, they shouldn't be on the ballot paper.

To continue your analogy about Bolsover, in council elections there are always some seats that are won unopposed. That doesn't mean that the system for electing councillors is undemocratic.

9:56 am, May 18, 2007

Anonymous jdc said...

"What the PLP did in nominating Brown in such large numbers was to forestall democracy."

What they did was to follow the procedure laid down by Party Conference. There exist mechanism for changing that procedure, and they have not been used.

I happen to think Gordon would have been better off if he'd engineered a contest, but it's not his fault if over 90% of the PLP want him in charge, is it?

10:18 am, May 18, 2007

Blogger Benjamin said...

To continue your analogy about Bolsover, in council elections there are always some seats that are won unopposed. That doesn't mean that the system for electing councillors is undemocratic.

If some wards are won unopposed then the elections in those wards, by definition, are undemocratic. Basic stuff.

One of the fist principle of democracy is the right to vote in contested elections. Judgement on the likelihood of success of any candidate are irrelevant: that is the job of the electorate to decide.

The PLP, as you know, is not the electorate alone, the wider party is. The PLP are charged with nominating only (not voting) and the nominations are to kick off a democratic process.

The PLP took the undemocratic decision of allowing one candidate only on the ballot paper, hence negating a basic principle of democrcay. Communists have been known to behave in similar ways.

10:19 am, May 18, 2007

Blogger Benjamin said...

What they did was to follow the procedure laid down by Party Conference.

Yep, they used a procedure
to forestall democracy.

As I said, Communists have been known to behave in similar ways.

You challenge them, and they will get out the Party Rulebook too, as if what's laid down there really trumps one of the basic principles of democracy: the right to vote in contested elections.

10:24 am, May 18, 2007

Anonymous Ian G said...

I'm not actually an enormous fan of Gordon Brown, and I would have preferred a geninue contest. However to say that winning 300 nominations to 30 does not represent a democratic mandidate is absurd.

The requirement to get the support of 45 MPs for a contest is one which I'm sure the vast majority of members are happy with.

A process is democratic if the candidate with the most genuine support wins. It's not about any particular form of election or procedure.

11:00 am, May 18, 2007

Anonymous IAn G said...

democratic mandate even...

11:01 am, May 18, 2007

Blogger Benjamin said...

Ian G

As regards the PLP, it is not charged with electing the leader, as you suggest. That used to be case. But is not now. It is now charged with nominating candidates to kick off a wider democratic process - that's a very different function.

If only one candidate is nominated that is, by definition, an undemocratic decision.

A cynic may argue that the PLP's role in nominating candidates, and the thresholds set, were deliberately put in place to forestall democracy in Labour Party leadership issues.

Indeed, self evidently, that is the case now.

And procedure is important. Note how the nominations process was staggered over a period of time, with updates provided via the party website which was not unbiased: 308 was the (unsaid) target.

The "ballot" of nominations was not secret (this should be key in a democracy), and the whole process was designed to "ramp up" nominations to forestall democracy.

It's a curious procedure indeed.

It's very odd how, after 13 years of the same leader, the PLP denied the hardworking wider membership and trade unionists a vote.

11:08 am, May 18, 2007

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

Niamh - get your councillor friend to contact me. The most useful thing they can do is to try to get their CLP to give Gordon their supporting nomination.

Benjamin - in any election you have to get nominated to stand. If you were running for parliament and couldn't get 20 electors to sign your papers you wouldn't get on the ballot paper.

Spoof Luke - Blair has retired. He hasn't instructed us to wear sackcloth and ashes and retreat to Sedgefield-les-deux-eglisses awaiting his triumphant return - he himself nominated Brown. People that though Bill Shankley was great were still Liverpool supporters after Bob Paisley took over.

11:10 am, May 18, 2007

Anonymous george said...

Yeah, good to see that the Cruddas team are the charm offensive with McDonnell supporters.

Quite literally burning thousands of votes...

Keep up the good word Team Cruddas!

11:17 am, May 18, 2007

Blogger HenryG said...

Ken Livingstone backs Cruddas.


11:42 am, May 18, 2007

Anonymous duncan said...

However, the rulebook was written with an assumption at its heart that there would be multiple candidates. Without multiple candidates it is a completely unsatisfactory process: nominations are not votes; neither candidates nor voters will react the same for nominations as they will for votes: apart from anything else a vote is carried out in a secret ballot.

12:48 pm, May 18, 2007

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brown campaign? Yawn. Why doesn't Blair just bugger off and let Brown get on with the job rather than have us all put up with this odious spectacle of people trying to pretend they're progressive when they're not.

1:32 pm, May 18, 2007

Anonymous David said...


I'm not sure I agree that the rulebook was set so as to encourage multiple candidates. My understanding is that the threshold was set so as to ensure that a both a wide field was possible (see Deputy leadership) AND that it was at a sufficient level so as to prevent there being too many candidates and to exclude candidates representing a minority of PLP opinion.

Whilst it is entirely right that we were the first party to open out the election of our leaders to the wider party, we must not lose sight of the fact that the PLP has to have confidence in who the leader is. Witness the mess the Tories and the LibDems got into with Duncan Smith and Charles Kennedy. If the PLP did have a leader foist upon it, then the consequences of the split between the party in parliament and the country would be disasterous for us.

The system balances these interests as it ensures that any leader at least has the bedrock of support in the PLP

1:44 pm, May 18, 2007

Anonymous Duncan said...

I understand your point David (don't share it - I partly don't trust any points I'm making for the next few days because I'm literally seething as I sit here, not doing my job properly!) But the current situation was unimaginable when the rules were devised. There are no past examples of uncontested leadership elections in the party's modern history; I know that Luke has made a comparison with pre-81 PLP only elections, but they were ELECTIONS, with multiple candidates and secret ballots, etc. Also, when Luke said that nobody questioned the legitimacy of leaders elected in that way: actually they DID which is precisely why the rules were changed.

You mention Ian Duncan-Smith and Charles Kennedy (both of whom were nominated by the parliamentary parties so don't seem particularly relevant examples): what about Michael Howard? The Conservative Party united behind him to show that they'd put splits behind him and entered one of the most shameful periods of their modern history (except when they were actually in government which is always more shameful, by definition).

The Labour Party doesn't do coronations, and it's never going to sit comfortably. Tony Benn once wrote that an unforeseen consequence of the reforms of the early 80s was a vast increase in the authority of Party leaders: from Kinnock to Blair, those leaders could claim a greater right to speak for the party than any 'people's champion' (whether on front or back benches, or indeed outside parliament). The consequences of that were certainly hugely apparent in the first few years of Blair's leadership. Brown does not have that authority, and now never will (winning a general election will resolve it for Newsnight and the newspapers, but he's hamstrung till he goes in party terms).

2:02 pm, May 18, 2007

Anonymous duncan said...

Just to clarify: I didn't suggest the rulebook was devised to encourage multiple candidates, I said that it assumed multiple candidates (in the occasion of a vacancy) and I stick by that.

2:07 pm, May 18, 2007

Anonymous Steve Horgan said...

Well, as a Tory I am pretty happy with this turn of events. Contested elections have much more impact than one press conference saying 'I've won'. Brown has blown his chance to lay his programme out to what would have been a substantial electorate and the wider public through what would have been extensive media coverage. Instead we enter a hiatus marked by an election precess that is largely of interest only to the Labour party. I bet that when CCO heard that it was a coronation they sent out for a case of Krug.

2:53 pm, May 18, 2007

Anonymous duncan said...

A bit more detail of how he got across the line.

6:44 pm, May 18, 2007

Anonymous Shocked! said...

From the Guardian report:
"Andrew Dismore, MP for Hendon, listed by the Brownites as hostile, changed his mind after a telephone call from the Jewish Chronicle pointing out if he backed McDonnell he would be supporting a man who wanted sanctions against Israel.

The MP has a substantial Jewish vote and his name is now on the Brown supporters list."

That is fucking awful!!

7:54 pm, May 18, 2007

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

Why is it awful? Dismore is a very active member of Labour Friends of Israel so of course he wouldn't back someone with McDonnell's views on the Middle East.

8:06 pm, May 18, 2007

Blogger E10 Rifle said...

"Well, as a Tory I am pretty happy with this turn of events."

I'd like to see a Brownite response to this particular comment.

I'm not going to bleat about the party rulebook too much (though the way other parts of it effectively nullify the will of conference etc are worth an argument, another time), my beef is with the PLP's cowardice. and more importantly tactical stupidity, in denying the membership a vote.

It somehow seems appropriate that one of the first major parliamentary decisions since Brown's "coronation" announcement is today's despicable decision by MPs to exempt themselves from the FOI Act. Interestingly, there's an Early Day Motion down opposing the wider attempt to water down the Freedom of Information Act. None of the deputy leader candidates have signed it, and only one of the leadership candidates has. No prizes for guessing which.

So that'll be "renewal" and "a more open style of government" then.

9:13 pm, May 18, 2007

Anonymous duncan said...

Fair's fair, with a mandate from 0.00051% of the population, Brown deserves our blind, slavish loyalty.

9:33 pm, May 18, 2007

Anonymous duncan said...

On the 'shocked!' point - the issue isn't with Dismore who may or may not have transferred his nomination for the sincerest of reasons. The issue is with the Brown camp who appear to have gone to absolutely extraordinary lengths to prevent a contest.

9:46 pm, May 18, 2007

Blogger grimupnorth said...

Brown's "coronation" as Labour leader ensures him a place in the histiry books as the least respected Labour Leader in history. he has no mandate, he's there because of a stitch-up.He is a bully who stopped a decent, principled candidate from getting on the ballot.Though he knew, obviously, he was going to win.
It was really great to see Brown arguing the toss with John McDonnell. At that point, I thought benignly that Gordon was to be respected for encouraging a debate. Ha bloody ha.He was so bloody outraged that someone would dare to stand up to him that hours later he got on the phone and personally rang Mps to ensure the rest of us never got a say or a vote.He is control freak, a bully.His "campaign" is beyond satire. Stupidly, he has alienated thousands of Party members who would probably have swung behind him had we had a contest.For a man who, as John McDonnell said "has a brain the size of Mars" he has been incredibly foolish.

1:38 pm, May 19, 2007

Anonymous Ted Harvey said...

Well, Brown's early strategy of seeking a renewal of trust has been smashed to smithereens before it even got going - the awful, stupid, arrogant decision by MPs to exempt themselves from the Freedom of Information Act is having a devasting impact of public perception.

One remark I was met with in the pub today was along the lines of 'Brown and trust? - look at the MPs protecting themselves - it's Blair and Eccleston all over again'.

I appreciate that people can argue this is not Brown's, but 'the Commons' doing; but I have no doubt that this FOI exemption disgrace is already damaging the image of his premiership.

Just how arrogant, thick and stupid are the MPs responsible for this? (leaving aside the creepy Tory fronting the Bill - he is just a sadly ill MP in the twilight of his supernumery Westminster career).

To the public it just seems a way of preventing them from learning about the huge personal expenses and travel claims of the likes of MP Eric Joyce of Falkirk

4:08 pm, May 19, 2007

Blogger E10 Rifle said...

Another question: those leaflets from the Brown camp that I and I presume all other members got in the post earlier in the week: How did his campaign team get hold of members' addresses? And were they offered to McDonnell's? This, remember, was sent out before Thursday's deadline.

4:22 pm, May 19, 2007

Blogger grimupnorth said...

Message to Luke. My CLP last night unanimously passed a resolution lowering the leadership threshold to 7.5 per cent.Our MP was there and she got roasted.....the backlash from brown's coronation is just beginning.....

5:50 pm, May 19, 2007


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