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, May 15, 2007

Gala Dinner

I was at the Labour Party Gala Dinner last night - another emotional (for the audience) farewell speech from Blair, and much lobbying of the MPs present by Hain and Blears and their respective campaign managers Phil Woolas and Caroline Flint - I didn't spot any of the other Deputy Leadership candidates.

Blair told a good anecdote about Christine Shawcroft at the NEC saying she was surprised by how much her GC had wanted to talk about his achievements and they had "almost passed a vote of thanks".

I hope Peter Hain didn't think I was being patronising when I congratulated him on getting nominated ...

Charles Clarke told me he isn't nominating anyone, but was affronted by my suggestion this put him in the same camp as John Spellar - "I'm not in the same camp as John Spellar on anything".

One MP actually filled in their nomination paper in front of me (for Blears, of course) - disappointingly the actual nomination form is a rather drab sheet of A4 - I guess I had a mental image of it being a hand-engraved vellum scroll.

The gossip was:
- Benn going absolutely nowhere and no one in the PLP seems to be feeling particularly sorry for him
- Cruddas not making any traction amongst MPs and seen as presumptuous for running as a relatively new backbencher by longer-serving MPs - probably will get nominated but only just
- Harman getting a huge push by the core Brownites
- Johnson going backwards - PLP support has dropped off in the last few weeks - and attempting to portray himself as unity candidate between Blears and Harman

53 Comments:

Anonymous Intrigued said...

Interesting stuff Luke.

"Benn going absolutely nowhere and no one in the PLP seems to be feeling particularly sorry for him"

I just don't understand this. Ordinary members seem to like him, and non-Labour people I've spoken to also warm to him more than most members of this government. What's the low-down on why the PLP isn't enthusiastically embracing Benn for deputy?

"Cruddas not making any traction amongst MPs and seen as presumptuous for running as a relatively new backbencher by longer-serving MPs"

What a bunch of arrogant old farts. That really is depressing. You can disagree with his programme but at the same time appreciate that his ideas make the contest much more interesting. If you have any names of these "longer-serving MPs" please provide them so that I can scowl at them ruthlessly next time they're on telly.

10:12 am, May 15, 2007

 
Blogger Hamer Shawcross said...

Indeed, interesting stuff. But why do you think Benn has no sympathy in the PLP?

10:32 am, May 15, 2007

 
Anonymous pregethwr said...

Astute commentary - Cruddas has indeed hit a buffer of 'good old boys' that he is finding it impossible to get beyond.

If he gets on though it really is anyone's - could easily go to a second redistribution of votes, which another way of saying a bit of a lottery.

10:45 am, May 15, 2007

 
Anonymous Cruddasite said...

Cruddas "probably will get nominated but only just"

A nomination is a nomination.

Roll on a Cruddas victory!

11:08 am, May 15, 2007

 
Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

Dream on rather than roll on.

11:10 am, May 15, 2007

 
Blogger Owen said...

According to polls, Cruddas already has more support than your candidate and he's far, far less known as things stand, so I wouldn't get on your high horse if I were you.

11:21 am, May 15, 2007

 
Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

"Less known" is the key. How many of the X million TU voters and 200,000 members have ever heard of him? Most people voting in this don't read Tribune and join Compass.

11:41 am, May 15, 2007

 
Blogger Chris Paul said...

Luke Akehurst on a high horse? Never. The Benn situation is rather strange. And for someone older than Blair was when he became leader to be facing obstacles is strange - though he hasn't had any front bench jobs ... when did fellow Estaurian Johnson get his first one?

Whatever we think of Blears some of her backers are absolutely poisonous and she'd have been better off if they'd kept quiet.

11:43 am, May 15, 2007

 
Blogger Chris Paul said...

People may not read Tribune or join Compass ... but with things so close they will read candidates' statements and perhaps even attend hustings.

DL as practiced by Prezza is a non-job. DPM is not necessarily there for the winner - another non-job. It's hard to get excited about it really.

Anything can happen ... but who cares?

Have you laid a bet at one of the burgeoning number of bookies on your high street Luke?

11:46 am, May 15, 2007

 
Anonymous Ian G said...

Like you say Luke, name recognition is certainly Cruddas's biggest obstacle. I only just about knew who he was before I heard he was standing.

Interesting then that in the recent YouGov poll he still managed to score above Blears, despite the fact that she's been in the cabinet for a number of years.

If Jon can score 9% from relative obscurity he should be in great position to challenge now that people are starting to find out who he is and what he stands for.

12:03 pm, May 15, 2007

 
Blogger Owen said...

'"Less known" is the key. How many of the X million TU voters and 200,000 members have ever heard of him? Most people voting in this don't read Tribune and join Compass.'

The point is, Luke, that Hazel's support has almost certainly hit a glass ceiling. The Blairite vote will be split between Johnson and Blears. My guess is that she'll get about 9% (and that'll be distorted by a higher percentage among MPs).

I don't really think that party members and trade unionists want a permanently on-message sycophant who will represent the Government to the members rather than the other way round.

I'd never vote for Benn in a million years, but your attitude on the matter is fairly shocking. You're crowing about the fact that he's struggling with MPs because you know full well that, as things stand, if he was on the ballot paper he'd probably win by a large margin. You're desperate to eliminate competition from someone who actually has support. No offence, but that strikes me as a little on the pathetic side.

12:07 pm, May 15, 2007

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Blimey! Owen defending Cruddas ... whatever did Mr Cruddas do to deserve this kiss of death from such an unprincipled, disloyal traitor.

12:09 pm, May 15, 2007

 
Blogger Owen said...

Good to hear from you again, Sham. Hope you're well.

12:13 pm, May 15, 2007

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Er, no, this isn't Sham.

12:15 pm, May 15, 2007

 
Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

I'm not crowing about Benn - I'm reporting what MPs said to me who were. Personally I've never met the guy and therefore have no real opinion about him - if he gets nominated he'll be my third choice after Blears and Johnson but that's about stopping the axis of mushy leftism (Hain/Harman/Cruddas). There has to be a reason why he's finding it so hard to find 44 supporters.

You can't "split a vote" in a transferable election.

I would have prefered that none of Cruddas, Harman and Hain were on the ballot, but that's life.

The label "Blairite" is pretty redundant since last Thursday. It has all the relevance of trying to insult people by calling them Gaitskellites or Kinnockites.

If Hazel has so little chance, why are the left obsessed with attacking her? Why not pour your fire on AJ or Benn?

12:31 pm, May 15, 2007

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There may be some less than negative reasons why Benn is finding it hard.

1 He shares a region with AJ and thus is chasing the same MPs.

2 He is out of the country when he should be in the tea room at a critical time.

3 He is too decent! He does not close the deal with MPs.

4 He gone swiftly up the greasy poll in part through help from No10 and Blunkett. So he has never had to build support for himself before.

Poltics is a mucky business - being too decent may mean your poltical skills are less sharp.

On the Hazel campaign - she is already doing much better than people thought and without trashing the last ten years. It ain't over yet...

12:34 pm, May 15, 2007

 
Anonymous Cruddasite said...

"Less known" is the key. How many of the X million TU voters and 200,000 members have ever heard of him?"

But they soon will and, as the least well known with no baggage, it is only Jon Cruddas who will gain from this contest.

People have pretty much made up their minds about all the others and the 'boredom' factor is already setting in.

Cruddas is ripe to capitalise on the barrage of publicity he is about to get.

The only way for Jon Cruddas, Mr Akehurst, is up, up and up.

12:46 pm, May 15, 2007

 
Blogger Sham said...

Owen, dear Owen, you must understand that I'm not the only one in the party who hates John McDonnell and everything he stands for.

Far, far from it.

12:51 pm, May 15, 2007

 
Blogger Owen said...

"If Hazel has so little chance, why are the left obsessed with attacking her? Why not pour your fire on AJ or Benn?"

I know that we should stick to politics rather than personalities (although the deputy leadership contest has thrown that out the window!) - but to be brutally honest, I think the reason she is attacked more is because she is regarded as by far the most irritating.

Have you heard your old boss Dobson's joke about her and global warming?

12:53 pm, May 15, 2007

 
Anonymous Cruddasite said...

I hear Dobbo's backing Jon Cruddas...

12:54 pm, May 15, 2007

 
Anonymous moderate said...

"I'm not the only one in the party who hates John McDonnell and everything he stands for."

You hate everything he stands for? You are just as extreme as he and his supporters. He is a Labour MP and if you understood anything about collective solidarity and the history of our movement you would appreciate that McDonnell has a legitimate place in the Labour Party. I will be voting for Brown but idiots like yourself or some of the Troty McDonnellites make me sick. If we weren't so desparate for members I'd be encouraging all you uncomradely members to leave!

1:15 pm, May 15, 2007

 
Anonymous Cruddas forever said...

"How many of the X million TU voters and 200,000 members have ever heard of him? Most people voting in this don't read Tribune and join Compass."

Yes, but he has the enthusiastic backing of Derek Simpson and Tony Woodley who are going to make sure that word spreads in the trade union movement that Cruddas is the man to vote for. How much support does Blears have from the trade unions? 99% of Cruddas' funding seems to be coming from the unions whereas Blears is relying on business donations from what I can gather.

I don't know why you dismiss Cruddas as a "mushy leftie". His policy programme is extensive and detailed (unlike Blears' pathetic effort). It is also far from dogmatically "leftie". As you yourself know there are plenty of people on the right of the party who appreciate Cruddas' proposals for party reform and will be voting for him.

1:18 pm, May 15, 2007

 
Blogger Sham said...

Call yourself a moderate? You make me sick.

McDonnell has voted against the Government more times than anyone else. So much for "collective solidarity".

A legitimate place in the Labour party? Don't make me laugh.

1:25 pm, May 15, 2007

 
Anonymous Ian G said...

Sham will only be happy when the Labour Party is reduced to himself, Tony Blair and Luke Akehurst!

I value loyalty to the party. Such as when Jon Cruddas voted against top-up fees while all our cabinet ministers were being disloyal...

1:33 pm, May 15, 2007

 
Anonymous arushandapushandthelandisours said...

Sham,
do you think Ken Livingstone has a legitimate place in the Labour Party?

1:43 pm, May 15, 2007

 
Blogger Owen said...

On a point of information, John has voted with the Labour Whip 75% of the time.

Meanwhile, New Labour continues to rebel against Labour party policy as decided by Conference - renationalisation of the railways, an end to PFI, an end to privatisation of our NHS, an immediate restoration of the pensions-earnings link, direct investment in council housing, the restoration of trade union rights, rights for agency workers, etc. John, on the other hand, is loyal to and is championing party policy.

In contrast to Sham, I think that the Labour party is a broad church. I think it has a place for me, for Luke Akehurst, and yes, even for him - despite the fact that he's somewhere to the right of Blair, regards anyone who opposed the war as a card-carrying Ba'athist, and subscribes to loony hard-right "Laffer Curve" economics.

1:49 pm, May 15, 2007

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And what's wrong with being in the same camp as John Spellar? I've never liked Charles Clarke.....

2:34 pm, May 15, 2007

 
Anonymous bilbo said...

Owen said:

'On a point of information, John has voted with the Labour Whip 75% of the time.'

That's like saying Harold Shipman didn't kill 75% of his patients.

2:58 pm, May 15, 2007

 
Blogger grimupnorth said...

Benn's lack of support amazes me, too.Is it the name ?????? Are the drones so brainwashed they still think he's Tony (if only) .He's a decent right-winger and it's shame if he doesn't get on the ballot. Hope Cruddas does as otherwise it's a really unappealing line-up. Hain it will have to be in that scenario. Hazel has no chance.....mind you Brown's already made it clear whoever wins will not be DPM .Surprise, surprise......

3:08 pm, May 15, 2007

 
Blogger Owen said...

"That's like saying Harold Shipman didn't kill 75% of his patients."

That's one of the most surreal things I've ever read.

Whatever you're on I want some!

3:15 pm, May 15, 2007

 
Blogger El Dave. said...

"I would have prefered that none of Cruddas, Harman and Hain were on the ballot, but that's life."

Why? They're hardly destructive influences. Cruddas has an amount of support and, despite being an unknown, seems to be around the threshold of MPs to be a serious candidate.

The media are starting to engage with the candidates, running biogs and so on. Sometimes being an unknown is a positive advantage. Also, he has support beyond Tribune and Compass - I'm sure some trades unionists would pay attention to Derek Simpson, for instance.

3:20 pm, May 15, 2007

 
Anonymous JSSC said...

Owen,

Who I gather is about 15 and has probably never been on strike in his life, loves to lecture the rest of us about the Labour Movement.

well he should learn something about the Labour party's rules and constitution.

There is no such thing as "policy" decided by conference. conference votes on a programme, elements of that programme go into the manifesto and the manifesto is what constitutes the thing the government should be judged on.

Oh, and by the way, this ain't some Blairite innovation. It has been so since Spring 1918.

Get your facts right, twerp.

3:38 pm, May 15, 2007

 
Blogger Sham said...

Before anyone says otherwise, neither "jssc" nor "bilbo" is me!

Indeed, I actually agree with Owen for once. I don't think McDonnell, Ken or himself should be expelled.

3:42 pm, May 15, 2007

 
Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

Dave,

if they had the same politics as me they wouldn't be running against the candidates I think are OK.

As I don't share their politics I hope they lose. A quick way to acheive that outcome would have been if they failed to get nominated.

In some ways the soft left are more dangerous than folk like McDonnell. The hard left everyone can see from what they are and know to avoid or attack. The soft left seem harmless, until like Robin Cook or Clare Short they let you down on a really critical vote, decision or policy. A victory for a soft left candidate even if it doesn't put them in a position of much power would give their wing of the party a morale boost and a louder voice. As I disagree with their politics I want them to have lower morale and a weaker voice.

3:47 pm, May 15, 2007

 
Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

Ken was expelled. I thought he shouldn't have been let back in. Unfortunately whilst Gordon Brown agreed with me, Tony Blair didn't.

3:48 pm, May 15, 2007

 
Anonymous arushandapushandthelandisours said...

Sham, how generous of you to oppose the expulsion of Ken Livingstone and John McDonnell from the Labour Party.

Livingstone is the recently reselected Labour candidate for mayor of London so there wasn't exactly much prospect of him being expelled in the first place!

You are turning into a parody of yourself.

3:53 pm, May 15, 2007

 
Anonymous arushandapushandthelandisours said...

Luke, can you provide some evidence of statments from Gordon Brown opposing Ken Livingstone's re-entry to the Labour Party?

It's a serious thing for a party member - someone holding office for the party on a local council - to state without evidence that the next leader of the party opposed the return to the Labour Party of the mayor of the capital city, a mayor who will fight London for Labour at the next election and whose re-election is a vital issue for everyone who wants to stop Cameron's Tories winning in London.

I think Ken Livingstone and Gordon Brown between them are delivering for London.

4:03 pm, May 15, 2007

 
Blogger Sham said...

You are turning into a parody of yourself.

Thank you. I was merely answering your question. Next time I'll treat you with the contempt you so richly deserve.

4:03 pm, May 15, 2007

 
Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

It was all over the press at the time of Ken's readmission. It had a lot to do with Livingstone having repeatedly whilst a backbencher attacked Brown's record as chancellor.

A good reminder of the debate on Ken's readmission is in this Independent article from 2003 - http://comment.independent.co.uk/columnists_m_z/donald_macintyre/article83017.ece

Which says:

"It's wholly understandable that Neil Kinnock, the man who did the heaviest tramping of all in the roughest, earliest stages of Labour's long march back to electability should be incandescent at the idea of his readmission. And that John Reid and Charles Clarke, who were Kinnock's close lieutenants on that march, should also be opposed. And that John Prescott, personally affronted by Livingstone's broken promise, should be even more fiercely against it. Or that Gordon Brown, for whose sacking Livingstone was already fatuously calling within a mere 13 months of the Labour government taking office, is of like mind. Or that Hilary Armstrong, as Chief Whip responsible above all others for party discipline, should shudder at the prospect. What is utterly baffling is why Blair should now take a contrary view to that of this uniquely experienced group of his Cabinet colleagues."

Of course, now that we have lost that battle over readmission both Gordon Brown and rather less importantly me, will be out there campaigning for Ken's re-election - because unlike him we respect Labour selection outcomes and don't back scab candidatures.

4:15 pm, May 15, 2007

 
Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

Sorry - rest of link here:
donald_macintyre/article83017.ece

4:16 pm, May 15, 2007

 
Blogger grimupnorth said...

jssc,
owen is not 15. Get your facts right, twerp.
Luke: "the axis of mushy leftism" Will be glad to vote for mushy axis in absence of anything else -and keep HB and her poisonous pals out of the equation.

4:20 pm, May 15, 2007

 
Anonymous arushandapushandthelandisours said...

Luke

You haven't actually provided any examples of Brown opposing Livingstone's return, just an example of someone else claiming that he opposed Livingstone's return.

I cannot find any statment from Gordon Brown opposing Ken Livingstone's return.

I can however find a statement from Gordon Brown on the eve of the local elections last year when he appeared with Ken Livingstone to help the Labour campaign in Lambeth. It seems that Gordon and Ken have a stronger instinct for the interests of the party than you.

In general the Treasury and the mayoralty seem to be doing a good job to increase investment in London.

You state that John Prescott opposed Livingstone's re-entry.

As this article shows, the NEC meeting to oversee Livingstone's return saw only Michael Cashman and Dennis Skinner opposed:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,,1117120,00.html

John Prescott voted for, not against, Ken Livingstone's readmission.

This was a good example of the leadership of the party recognising that an error needed to be corrected, something that most party members welcome.

What the new leader of the party needs is a strong base in London, which includes a good relationship with its mayor. It's odd to find a Labour blog trying to sow seeds of division between them.

4:30 pm, May 15, 2007

 
Anonymous arushandapushandthelandisours said...

sorry, the last bit of that link is this:
/story/0,,1117583,00.html

4:32 pm, May 15, 2007

 
Anonymous jssc said...

Actually, I said "about 15" and I was referring to his mental age.

I note, however, there is no reply to the issue of substance - namely that the government has been ignoring conference "policy" is a lie which is either fostered through ignornace of the Labour Party and its rules or through deliberate misrepresentation.

4:32 pm, May 15, 2007

 
Blogger El Dave. said...

Luke,

This is probably where we're going to disagree. There is a big difference between not standing and losing. We are all in the Labour party and ultimately (one would hope) would pull together. If Hazel were to win, fine, if Cruddas wins, fine. Having the debate is important and that would be impossible if Cruddas, Hain and Harman weren't in the running.

Failure for them to be nominated would increase disaffection in some parts of the Labour party. Now, while it's true that the left are supporting Cruddas, it is not fair to say that Cruddas is of the left.

Similarly with the leadership - I want McDonnell to run because that in itself allows for debate and keeps people in the party.

4:33 pm, May 15, 2007

 
Anonymous jssc said...

By the way, its not a secret that Gordon Brown opposed the re-entry of Livingstone into the Labour Party. What's the big deal?

4:35 pm, May 15, 2007

 
Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

Dave

a debate is of itself a valuable thing. It is not however the end in itself of this election. The end in itself is getting a new leadership who will win the next General Election and lead the party and the government well.

I'm not 100% convinced that we want the kind of party members who are only prepared to stay in in order to vote for John McDonnell. I am reasonably certain that beyond their subs these people will make no contribution whatsover to the electoral success of the Labour Party.

Cruddas could demonstrate he is not on the left by disagreeing with them rather than sucking up to them.

4:42 pm, May 15, 2007

 
Blogger grimupnorth said...

I think Owen's point was that In recent years, NONE of the policy positions agreed at Conference backed by CLPs and TUs have gone anywhere near the manifesto or anywhere else. They have just been ignored.
Council housing and re-nationalisation of the railways being most obvious examples.
Votes have not been allowed on Trident or Iraq policy. The whole thing is a stitch-up.Presumably you think that's OK?????

4:44 pm, May 15, 2007

 
Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

Personally I don't think conference is tightly managed enough these days. If we got sounder delegations elected we wouldn't have daft policies passed that would then have to be ignored. ;)

4:50 pm, May 15, 2007

 
Anonymous jssc said...

They haven't been ignored. Read the Labour party constitution and come back when you know what the Clause V meeting is.

5:07 pm, May 15, 2007

 
Anonymous josh said...

jssc comes across like a particularly vile human being

he's the sort of venomous little man i bet everyone wants to punch in real life

5:24 pm, May 15, 2007

 
Anonymous Billy Bo said...

Cruddas sucking up the left? What, by revealing that he is in favour of ID cards, refusing to nominate John McDonnell, describing his views as 'traditionally on the Labour right'. You're just annoyed because Tribune and Compass like him and you're projecting your hatred of them onto him. Which is fine, but I sometimes suspect your intellectual judgment is clouded by your emotional dependency on factionalism and leftie-baiting.

Is Blears not sucking up to the left by claiming her socialism is from the streets (having not talked about her socialism for years, she has suddenly rediscovered it for the purposes of the DL election) and is now spreading the word that the great Barbara Castle was her political mentor (never heard that one before in all her years of high-profile government positions!).

Now to be honest I think Blears is playing a pretty reasonable game in this respect. Everyone is expected to up their Labour roots to appeal to the membership. I just can't stand your double standards when it comes to Cruddas.

p.s If the government had listened to Robin Cook we wouldn't have gone to war, our party membership would not have collapsed so dramatically, and Blair would probably be happily sailing through the middle of his third term with the Tories trailing behind.

5:52 pm, May 15, 2007

 
Anonymous duncan said...

jssc - yes there IS such a thing as conference policy. The conference is the sovereign body of the Labour Party. You are correct that the Clause V meeting does not automatically translate party policy into manifesto commitments, but that is a different point.

So stop trying to imagine you're clever.

8:56 am, May 16, 2007

 

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