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

Just a case of history repeating itself

I was wrong to suggest in a post below that the Hard Left was blaming people like me for McDonnell's dismal failure to get on the ballot paper.

In fact, in the best Pythonesque traditions, the "People's Liberation Front of Judea" are blaming - in the most vitriolic way they can - in the comments here for instance - the "Judean People's Liberation Front" i.e. Jon Cruddas, Jon Trickett and Compass, for getting various suckers from the Campaign Group to nominate Cruddas, then not reciprocating and instead nominating Brown.

It's always pleasing that the Labour left can be relied on in almost any circumstances to fulfil the role of being their own worst enemies.

But the Hard Left's attempt to portray their failure to get on the ballot as a new and hence newsworthy phenomenon is ahistorical.

In 1992 they failed to get enough nominations (I think it was for Livingstone that time) and hence only the soft left Bryan Gould made it onto the ballot versus Smith.

The same thing happened in 1994 when only the soft left candidates Beckett and Prescott made it through to face Blair.

The dismal lack of support in the PLP for the Hard Left is actually down to the immense strategic mistake made by Tony Benn in 1988 in triggering an unnecessary leadership election against Kinnock. This had 3 impacts:

- it split the Campaign Group and the rump has never been a power in the PLP since
- it led to the threshold for getting nominated in open leadership elections and for triggering contests against an incumbent mid-term both being raised so that the candidate of a tiny fringe of the PLP couldn't force an unnecessary, time-consuming, expensive ballot
- it gave Kinnock the mandate to drive through the Policy Review and accelerate the junking of Benn's policy shiboliths

Plus ca change.


Anonymous Poor John McD said...

Excellent analysis. Apocalyptic predictions of the "death of the Labour left" coming from angry McDonnellites are inevitable but completely inaccurate. The fact is they ran a hard left candidate with a hard left campaign on a pretty hard left agenda. Given that the hard left is not a powerful force in the PLP it was inevitably going to falter! I hope the soft left is doing a better job of planning its campaign for the next leadership contest...

10:18 am, May 17, 2007

Anonymous dan said...

Yes, quite, because we all know Cruddas is only running now as a trial run for a leadership run next time.

The fact that Cruddas will be humiliated in the coming election and Benn will be crowned deputy leader will put a stop to that, however.

Benn will scrap on to the ballot paper...

...with the help of a few Campaign Group MPs, by the looks of things.

You work it out.

They call that "reaping a whirlwind", by the way

10:35 am, May 17, 2007

Anonymous Ian G said...

So instead of supporting a candidate you share some politics with, you prefer to back a candidate that you share even less with? That's logical...

Maybe you're confusing Hilary with Tony!

10:59 am, May 17, 2007

Anonymous dan said...

Cruddas has shown that his supposed commitment to party democracy is bollocks, Ian.

His record is not actually that much different than the other candidates. He voted for the war, attacks on civil liberties and the marketisation of our NHS.

He's an ex-Blairite hack who has no experience whatsoever in the real world who is running for a position without any power.

Given the deputy leadership is a non-job - a bag carrier for Brown - we might as well just vote for someone on the basis of personality.

And at least Benn isn't a hypocrite within his own terms.

Face it Ian, your campaign is sunk

11:31 am, May 17, 2007

Blogger Bill said...

Hard left? Hardly. anyway it seems history really is repeating itself

11:52 am, May 17, 2007

Anonymous Loons! said...

The hard left are so twattish on the net, is John McDonnell like this in parliament? No wonder he didn't have enough friends to get through!

12:00 pm, May 17, 2007

Blogger grimupnorth said...

John McDonnell has lots of friends. Thousands of Labour Party members, constituents, trade union activists, anti-war campoaigners pensioners, asylum seekers. Gate Gourmet workers. Unfortunately for him, the PLP clearly doesn't give a toss about democracy, debate or giving ordinary members a say in who is their leader.I thank the 29 who supported him. The rest are craven.
Many joined the Party to vote for a Leader. No doubt many will be leaving shortly. Well done Gordon.
Cruddas may have got the message by now he won't be getting many left votes.More fool us for trusting a Blairite.

1:01 pm, May 17, 2007

Anonymous VoteLabourWithPride said...

I have just stopped laughing at the outrage of the ultra-left. As you say Luke, it reminds one of the joke: What do you get if six Trotskyists are stranded on a desert island? Five splinter groups and two entryist organisations.

I can't believe they really thought Cruddas had anything in common with them, the history of antipathy between the legitimate, soft left and the ultras is long and bloody.

But I felt I must share a great quote from McDonnell himself complaining about Gordon Brown beating him by more than ten to one in nominations.

In the sort of blinkered outrage that only the extreme left can believe and communicate with a straight face, McDonnell said
"he [Gordon Brown] has been calling people personally to support him".

This is the ultra-left definition of a stitch-up; a candidate actually having the temerity to ask people to support him! It's a disgrace I say, revolution now!

2:47 pm, May 17, 2007

Anonymous Ian G said...

Dan, if you feel that not nominating John McDonnell means you don't have a commitment to party democracy, I think you have a very narrow and self-serving definition of the term 'democracy'.

Jon has never claimed to be on the far left of the party, nor has he ever said he supported John McDonnell, so I think you are totally out of order to call him a hypocrite. In any case, the bottom line is that John McDonnell wouldn't have got on the ballot paper whatever Jon Cruddas did.

I actually disagree that people should 'lend' each other the nominations to get on the ballot paper or that people should be 'for' or 'against' a contest. A leadership election when one candidate doesn't even have the GENUINE support of 45 MPs would have been a pointless charade.

2:55 pm, May 17, 2007

Anonymous Gregg said...

We've fallen very far if a programme that seems less radical than what Labour was running on when Wilson was leader, is now classed as "hard left".

2:57 pm, May 17, 2007

Anonymous Andrea said...

"What do you get if six Trotskyists are stranded on a desert island?"

They would all run for French Presidential elections, naturally!

3:29 pm, May 17, 2007

Anonymous Anonymous said...

votelabourwithpride wrote:

"In the sort of blinkered outrage that only the extreme left can believe and communicate with a straight face, McDonnell said
"he [Gordon Brown] has been calling people personally to support him".

This is the ultra-left definition of a stitch-up; a candidate actually having the temerity to ask people to support him! It's a disgrace I say, revolution now!"

Hilarious isn't it? Presumably Gordon should have set out a program, and then started a newspaper to promote it rather than actually asking people to vote for him.....

4:04 pm, May 17, 2007

Anonymous Kevin said...

Let's get this straight - are McDonnell's supporters sayign they are backign Hilary benn?
have they completely lost touch with reality?
If they're looking for someone to blame for John McD not getting on ballot paper, how about the 5 Campaign Group members who backed Brown? Why on EARTH would they think Jon Cruddas would nominate John McD.
McDonnell is a great guy who ran a great campaign and we should ahve ahd the chnace to vote for him - but sadly some of his supporters are seriously out of touch with reality.

4:36 pm, May 17, 2007

Anonymous Miles said...

Ian G
You are deliberately missing the point.
In the NEC poll for ordinary party members Christine Shawcross - an unrepentent McDonnellite - can get more than 50 percent of the vote.
I know it is a different dynamic in a ballot for more than one post but that demonstrates that John could have won a significant number of votes without the support of 45 MPs.
Trades unionists were going to be balloted for the first time - so no-one knows what they would have thought.
I agree that Gordon was the overwhelming favourite - but the failure to win 45 MPs is not a sign that John would not poll a significant vote.

4:37 pm, May 17, 2007

Anonymous Ian G said...

I voted for a number of people on the grassroots alliance slate in the NEC elections. I didn't do that because I agreed with their policy position, I simply thought they'd be better at holding the leadership to account and reporting back to members.

Whether or not John McDonnell could have pulled a 'significant' vote is irrelevant. With so little support in the PLP he wasn't a credible candidate for Party Leader and Prime Minister. That's why we have the 12.5% rule, and I'm pretty sure that the overwhelming majority of party members are happy with that.

Also, in point of fact, I'm sure I'm right in saying that trade unionists were balloted in 94, and they voted for Blair!

4:51 pm, May 17, 2007

Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

Ian that's correct. 1994 was the first OMOV ballot of TUs and Blair won them with 52.3% vs. 28.4% for Prescott and 19.3% for Beckett. This despite the fact that if my memory is correct only ISTC nominated him.

5:07 pm, May 17, 2007

Blogger Dan said...

The idea that the PLP is unrepresentatively right wing is an odd one. In each election since the electoral college was introduced (1983, 1988, 1992, 1994), the left/right split in the Party as a whole has more or less mirrored that in the PLP.

The fact is that the hard left has been an irrelevancy in the Party as a whole since the mid 1980s. The proliferation of grouplets (CLPD, Campaign Group, LRC, Briefing, Grassroots Alliance) disguises the fact that it's the same handful of people each time.

This has been enough to get hard left candidates elected to the NEC on a 20% turnout, but never enough to even register a presence in leadership elections.

5:32 pm, May 17, 2007

Anonymous Gregg said...

Let's get this straight - are McDonnell's supporters sayign they are backign Hilary benn?

I can't speak for anyone else, but I certainly intend to. To be honest with you, Deputy Leader is a non-job and I don't care who gets it. As long as it isn't Hazel Blears. Benn seems to stand the best chance of beating Blears. So, yes, I'm going to vote for him.

Nothing against Cruddas, but he was running a non-serious campaign for a non-serious position. The only power the Deputy has is the leverage afforded by a threat of resignation - something Prescott used much too rarely, but effectiely when he did use it (blackmailing Blair into not ditching the minimum wage, for instance). But if Cruddas won't take DPM or a Ministry, and given that his only career to date is as a backbencher, who'd care if he resigned?

Blears, I know, will use that leverage to compel Brown to keep the most odious Blairites in the Cabinet. The only way I'll be voting for Cruddas is if looks like he's the best runner against her. And it really does't look that way.

5:33 pm, May 17, 2007

Anonymous Andrea said...

"This despite the fact that if my memory is correct only ISTC nominated him."

you recall it right. The affiliate organizations nominating Blair were: Iron and Steel Trades Confederation; Labour Students; The Christian Socialist Movement; Society of Labour Lawyers

5:53 pm, May 17, 2007

Anonymous duncan said...

I'm going to spoil my ballot for the deputy leadership (the only way I can see that I can express a view after 13 years of waiting). As people have said it's a non-job. I don't really care whether it's Hilary, Jon, Hazel on anyone else who gets a free seat in Brown's cabinet. They're bound by collective responsibility, so it doesn't really matter what they say in their campaign anyway.

6:10 pm, May 17, 2007

Blogger Dan said...

I'm confused. How can a principled supporter of John McDonnell possibly support Benn, who voted for tuition fees, the Iraq war, foundation hospitals, student top-up fees, and everything else McDonnell spends his time railing against?

6:19 pm, May 17, 2007

Anonymous duncan said...

Posted this on another thread, but thought I would stick it here too, as it is relevant:

Are all our comments on Luke's blog a reflection on his views? Some people's arguments really are pathetic.

Luke - nobody blames the likes of you. Indeed, I think you actually had the right view on this (that a proper leadership election with candidates from various traditions within the party putting their cases forward would be ideal).

I don't think anybody blames Cruddas either. If he'd ended up nominating nobody I might have voted for him (I had just about decided to go for him rather than Hilary in the last few months, even though I prefer the latter on a personal level). But Brown really didn't require that 305th nomination did he? And when some MPs justified their nomination on the basis of not being able 'to let Gordon down' - he wasn't really going to miss their nomination either, was he?

The problem in the end was that the Brown campaign systematically cut out any alternative (and that's as much the case for the Blairite right as for the so-called 'hard left').

The truth was expressed to me by some young members a while ago. They said that they liked John, they agreed with most of his programme, and they'd have voted for him for Deputy, but (repeated like an anchoress in her cell) 'it had to be Gordon'.

If we want to talk about going back in time, this election was conducted a la the Tories before 1965. Brown 'emerged' because of his seniority and because of deals done a long time ago. It was Buggins' Turn. And I fear it'll be the Labour Party that will suffer because of it, unless we all work very hard (whatever wing of the party you're on).

6:23 pm, May 17, 2007

Anonymous jdc said...

Dan I don't think you're right about the right left split being similar across the electoral college. Kinnock (then on the left) trounced Hattersley (then on the right) in the constituencies in 1983, but only won by about 2 to 1 in the PLP.

8:09 pm, May 17, 2007


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