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.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Only themselves to blame

Much squealing from the Hard Left about McDonnell's expected inability to get on the ballot paper.

Apparently this is all the fault of people like me.

Actually I feel sorry for ordinary members who should have had a chance to vote for Gordon rather than him get it without a ballot.

I don't feel sorry for the political incompetents running the Hard Left who:

- made a laughing stock of themselves arguing over Meacher vs McDonnell
- ended up running a candidate who has no cross-over appeal beyond the ultras at all - a guy who whilst he is a good communicator and by all accounts a personable man has never held executive office since the early '80s (surely some recent experience of running something is required in a potential PM); has either the worst or second worst disciplinary record on 3-line whips; and is so left-field that he was sacked by Ken Livingstone - of all people - for extremism

It's all the fault of that nasty old rulebook saying you need 45 nominators ... except that 5 or possibly 6 MPs have proved themselves capable of finding the 45 signatures needed for Deputy Leader - only McDonnell seems unable to do this. And why should candidates representing less than such a small number of MPs be entitled to run?

It's not the rulebook, it's not people like me - it's the long-term rejection by Labour of any return to the politics of the 1980s, the lack of any credible left leader since Tony Benn, the consensus of support from Bob Marshall-Andrews to Alan Milburn for Brown, and the chronic lack of self-awareness of the Hard Left - which enables them to think John McDonnell was a serious leadership candidate - that has got them into this mess.

Don't blame us, comrades. Blame yourselves and go away and consider whether maybe the unpopularity of your candidate and your politics is because they are totally and utterly wrong and misguided, not because they are hard-done-by.

34 Comments:

Anonymous curious said...

"surely some recent experience of running something is required in a potential PM"

What experience of running anything did Blair have?

2:17 pm, May 16, 2007

 
Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

He wasn't being bench-marked against a man who has been a hugely sucessful Chancellor for 10 years.

2:23 pm, May 16, 2007

 
Anonymous still curious said...

That doesn't really answer the questions though, does it?

2:24 pm, May 16, 2007

 
Blogger grimupnorth said...

The PLP has made a huge mistake. This will destroy Brown's credibility with the electorate. And seriously disillusion thousands of members. Including myself. Well done.

2:25 pm, May 16, 2007

 
Blogger Owen said...

It's not over till it's over.

If there's no contest, it will damage our entire party. Members will be demoralised by not having any say in an election. Brown will have no mandate. He will be the leader of the Parliamentary Labour Party and nothing else.

Furthermore, the Tories would have a field day over it.

If I were Luke, I'd stop being quite so smug and lobby MPs to nominate John - because, with no election, we're all going to suffer.

2:31 pm, May 16, 2007

 
Blogger Owen said...

"It's all the fault of that nasty old rulebook saying you need 45 nominators ... except that 5 or possibly 6 MPs have proved themselves capable of finding the 45 signatures needed for Deputy Leader - only McDonnell seems unable to do this. And why should candidates representing less than such a small number of MPs be entitled to run?"

There is a difference. We're running against the Gordon Brown machine - which has been perfected for about 14 years. Why do you think no-one else has stood against Brown?

Even when Brown had won over two-thirds of the PLP, he was still ringing round MPs and doing all that he can (with his power of patronage, blackmail etc) to ensure that they nominated him.

After Sunday's debate, Brownites decided that they did not want a contest with John. John impressed even the most hardened Brownites. Even the Blairite deselected MP Jane Griffiths - who on Saturday described John as a "trot gobshite" on her blog - wrote, after attending the hustings, that John was the best performer.

Brown knew that John had every chance of winning a significant section of both the party and union votes and he decided to do all he could to prevent that from happening.

Whatever the parliamentary gatekeepers decide, there is a) grassroots support for John and b) overwhelming grassroots support for a contest.

If the MPs block a contest, then you have no way of disproving either a) or b).

2:36 pm, May 16, 2007

 
Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

Nonsense, every leader until Kinnock was only elected by MPs. No one ever questioned their credibility.

2:38 pm, May 16, 2007

 
Anonymous Peter Kenyon said...

Dear Luke

As you know Save the Labour Party has focussed on promoting saving the Labour Party as a democratically run, solvent, membership organisation, rather than individual candidates who might play a role in achieving that objective.

But there is one point of fact that needs to be highlighted in your dismissal of John McDonnell's candidacy. Remind us. What executive experience (other than shadowing) had Tony Blair had up to the moment he was appointed by the Queen to form a government in May 1997? Or Gordon Brown for that matter? Or most other members of the 1997 Labour government?

2:41 pm, May 16, 2007

 
Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

John McDonnell is not running against Tony Blair in 1994 therefore their relative experience is irrelevant. He is running against Gordon Brown now so their relative experience is highly pertinent.

2:47 pm, May 16, 2007

 
Anonymous Robert Murray said...

I don't care what they do afterwards, but McDonnell's supporters should just go away. The first thing the new leader should do is disaffiliate ASLEF and any other unions that endorsed McDonnell.

3:04 pm, May 16, 2007

 
Anonymous jdc said...

Oh dear, I seem to agree with Owen (and, in point of fact, Luke). It will do us no good to have a coronation, particularly as it won't substantially affect the speed of the handover. I'd vote for Brown a hundred times before I'd vote for John once, but it's a vote we ought to have.

3:16 pm, May 16, 2007

 
Blogger Bill said...

Luke,

trying to protect a weak argument is a great political skill, in 1997 Tony blair was standing against John Major who had years of high level executive experience. It's a non-starter, the whole point of democracy is there isn't a career path, you could be Prime Minister tomorrow were the electorate to wish it.

4:07 pm, May 16, 2007

 
Anonymous democrat said...

Robert murray.....and UNISON too???Bully Brown will lose the next election because of this - and he deserves to.Two years and he's toast....

4:42 pm, May 16, 2007

 
Anonymous darren said...

"trying to protect a weak argument is a great political skill, in 1997 Tony blair was standing against John Major who had years of high level executive experience. It's a non-starter, the whole point of democracy is there isn't a career path, you could be Prime Minister tomorrow were the electorate to wish it. "

Quite. And the evidence suggests that Brown is actually less popular now than Major was in 1997.

This is all a bit of a disaster really.

5:06 pm, May 16, 2007

 
Anonymous Robert Murray said...

Brown should also do something about the trade unions that endorsed Cruddas. Rumours abound that union bosses threatened to withdraw funds from MPs if they didn't nominate Cruddas, and that's how he went from a reported 25 nominations on Monday to 45 today. The people involved should be named and if their unions don't take action against them, then those unions should be disaffiliated as well. Those are the real bullies!

5:12 pm, May 16, 2007

 
Anonymous jdc said...

"Rumours abound that union bosses threatened to withdraw funds from MPs if they didn't nominate Cruddas"

So? It's their money. Don't take it in the first place if you can't cope with them wanting a return on their investment.

5:27 pm, May 16, 2007

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Robert Murray's suggestion of unions threatening to withdraw constituency agreements from MPs who didnt back Cruddas is a lie, pure and simple.
I work for an MP who has such an agreement and isn't backing Cruddas and the discussions have been amicable.
Let's try to keep this comradely, Cruddas got on fair and square.
Kevin

5:32 pm, May 16, 2007

 
Anonymous Ian G said...

I also find it strange that Robert Murray is so eager to bankrupt the party, close down head office, make all party staff redundant and end one hundred years of history. That would be the effect of disaffiliating major unions.

I think Robert Murray must be a Tory, because they'd be in government for ever if we did as he suggests.

5:51 pm, May 16, 2007

 
Anonymous Robert Murray said...

I support state funding and with that the Labour Party will no longer be under the thumb of unaccountable extremists in the trade unions. I have never been a member of the Tory party.

Regardless of how Cruddas got on to the ballot the reaction of the McDonnellites means any chance he had of becoming Deputy Leader is now long gone.

5:58 pm, May 16, 2007

 
Anonymous duncan said...

I'm still hopeful.

If it doesn't happen, it doesn't happen: but let's be clear: John McDonnell's still in it: Alan Johnnson? John Reid? David Miliband? Charles Clarke? Alan Milburn? All queuing up to nominate Brown now!

5:59 pm, May 16, 2007

 
Anonymous notvotingforcruddas said...

A sickening spectacle. And Cruddas can forget those left votes because there won't be any. What a waste of space he's turned out to be.So much for his concerns about Party democracy. Hope the unions are pleased too.Can someone explain to me what is the point of opposing Trident and then voting for Gordon Brown ??????

6:09 pm, May 16, 2007

 
Anonymous Cruddas can go fuck himself said...

To be honest, I just wanted a contest. I wasn't sure if I was voting for Brown or MacDonnell, but I just wanted the right to a vote.

Cruddas said that he wanted to rebuild the party, involve activists etc. So what does he do? Vote against having a contest.

With that in mind I'll be voting Benn.

6:30 pm, May 16, 2007

 
Anonymous Dan said...

Yes Robert Murray, cos pushing more people away from the Labour Party is EXACTLY what we need right now isn't it?

The right wing canard about unions being unaccountable is a pile of tosh. Apart from the undemocratic Ken Jackson ("I don't need to consult my members, I know how they vote" quoth he during the inaugural London Mayor selection contest) , and look what happened to him. Union leaders are elected by their members, have conferences each year at which they decide and - behold! - often try and carry out the policies passed there. Compare and contrast that with Labour conference. Furthermore, union members who are affiliated to the Labour Party actively choose and pay to do so. How is any of that unaccountable?

Demanding disaffiliation becasue unions did not vote the wya you wanted makes you far closer to being a bully than any of the people you have criticised.

Blair's party was mcuh more under the thumb - or subject to far greater influence, shall we say - from moneyed busniess men like Ecclestone than "extremist" trade unionists.

State funding would be a disaster for all the political parties as it would detach members and supporters even more. Transparency and accountabiltiy - not to mention the liberty to spend your own money as you wish - are much more healthy answers to the problem of party funding that started under Thatcher and was exacerbated by how "relaxed" New Labour was about the stinking rich.

6:35 pm, May 16, 2007

 
Anonymous Analysis said...

The fury of the McDonnellites with Cruddas is pitiful! No self-reflection.

I agree with Luke's analysis in that McDonnell was always going to be a difficult candidate to push on the party.

However, I think in this context it was pretty inevitable that the likelihood would be no challenger to Brown. He's had years to plan this. Many in the PLP just want to get the contest over with ASAP without the risk of starting an outbreak of the kind of factionalism that has helped Labour lose many elections before.

So a mixture of the left candidate being too extreme and context of Brown's invincibility.

Praise be that we'll have a more open and interesting DL competition!

7:39 pm, May 16, 2007

 
Anonymous Ian G said...

Oh you McDonnellites love a scapegoat don't you?

Never mind that John McDonnell couldn't even get all the campaign group to back him. Never mind that the likes of Bob Marshall-Andrews and Glenda Jackson backed Brown, it's all Jon Cruddas's fault now.

You were never planning to do anything constructive for Jon anyway.

10:33 pm, May 16, 2007

 
Blogger Chris Paul said...

I kinda agree Luke. The strategy from the left was all wrong. Though there was some excellent work going on and a pretty good idea of what would be best for the party.

The PLP (who rely for future jobs on the winners) should not have this gatekeeper role exclusively or to this extent. They are not the party. They are just 0.15% (or less, even 0.075%) of the party. And they have an obvious conflict of interest.

11:54 pm, May 16, 2007

 
Blogger E10 Rifle said...

Luke

Regardless of past procedures (you Blairites are really much more obsessed with the past than us aren't you?, surely you can see that it's bad politics for Brown to be 'crowned' in this way, regardless of what you think of the policies. Can you look at the big picture here.

And you can surely understand how people might be angry with MPs who shared McDonnell's opinions on Trident, the war, foundation hospitals, the Trade union freedom bill and the like, still lining up to support someone who vehemently doesn't agree with them on such issues. It's unwise politics. Remember, the party leadership's not the invincible juggernaut it was 10 years ago. We're in a position of serious electoral weakness at the moment. Stop fighting the battles of the 90s and 80s and look at where the party is now.

Of course, the McDonnell campaign wasn't perfect - that's often the way with things that lack resources and time - but it was a damn sight more honest and engaging than anything Brown has come out with.

Oh, and anyone who thinks state funding will reconnect people with politics is living in cloudcuckoo land. Yet WE'RE supposed to be the ones out of touch...

1:44 am, May 17, 2007

 
Anonymous tim f said...

I think it would've been great if we'd had a contest where we could debate honestly the issues facing our party and country.

That's now irrelevant. The immediate issue is keeping the thousands of members who joined us because of the McDonnell campaign and who will deliver leaflets and knock on doors during the next general election if they still feel they're involved.

Let's concentrate on that.

2:28 am, May 17, 2007

 
Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

7:45 am, May 17, 2007

 
Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

"the thousands of members who joined us because of the McDonnell campaign and who will deliver leaflets and knock on doors during the next general election"

I have just fallen off my chair laughing!

The kind of people who would join because they supported McDonnell a) don't number in the thousands and b) are extremely unlikely to have done any work even if McDonnell had been leader.

The correlation between extreme leftism and working hard at election time is not a very strong one - with a few honourable exceptions.

7:56 am, May 17, 2007

 
Anonymous Grahams said...

"That's now irrelevant. The immediate issue is keeping the thousands of members who joined us because of the McDonnell campaign and who will deliver leaflets and knock on doors during the next general election if they still feel they're involved."


I've just seen a post on the John4Leader facebook group that says:

"A hung Parliament? I very much hope so, but it's at least as likely that the Tories will win outright (though Blair and Brown are so right-wing that this would be a slight improvement)."

I think this says it all about the McDonnell campaign. Others are wondering which party they are now going to move to. Respect, the Greens, or the ""Campaign for a New Workers Party"" (membership: three Trots, a tankie, and his dog).

I probably would have voted for a soft left candidate over Brown. McDonnell's hard leftness was always going to make him unattractive in the PLP. While he personally has come across as decent, his campaign is so tainted with far-left bitterness and apparently encouraging entryism that it was inevitable that he wouldn't appeal to many in the PLP. Not even left MPs!

8:33 am, May 17, 2007

 
Blogger donpaskini said...

"The correlation between extreme leftism and working hard at election time is not a very strong one - with a few honourable exceptions."

That's not my experience. In particular, younger people who haven't had much previous experience of politics and have very left-wing views are people who can often be persuaded to work extremely hard at election time for Labour candidates if welcomed into the Labour Party and persuaded to get involved (rather than antagonised and told to bugger off and join the socialist workers).

In the place where tim f used to be an activist when I first knew him, the opposition parties put out leaflets complaining about how many young people we were able to send to campaign in key wards. I can't think of too many other places where that is the case, and rather than laughing, it is worth listening to what he has to say - you might learn something.

11:39 am, May 17, 2007

 
Blogger E10 Rifle said...

"While he personally has come across as decent, his campaign is so tainted with far-left bitterness and apparently encouraging entryism that it was inevitable that he wouldn't appeal to many in the PLP."

No, that's not really it. Those people who joined because of McDonnell's campaign tended to do so because they were only too aware both that the far-left parties were going nowhere, and that the entryist tactics of old (and those that advocated them) were going nowhere too.

But anyway, my central point is that the party has been weakened by its failure to have a leadership election, handing ammunition to the Tories and the Lib Dems at a time when - I repeat - the Labour leadership is not popular in the wider country. It isn't 1997 anymore.

11:47 am, May 17, 2007

 
Anonymous duncan said...

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).

6:21 pm, May 17, 2007

 

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