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, June 15, 2007

Question Time

Belatedly, my reactions to last night's Question Time Deputy Leadership debate, large chunks of which I spent shouting at the TV scream or with my head buried in my hands.

Defining moments:

Hazel: the bit where she, alone of the candidates, paid recognition to the rest of the electorate listening to the debate and said it wasn't just about saying things (allegedly) popular with an internal party audience: "We won three elections because we are in tune with the British people, there are new challenges around housing, climate change, international terrorism, but if we move away from that combination of a strong economy and social justice, if we go into punitive taxes, if we start to slide back into the territory, then that is a real warning to us."

Alan: came across as very relaxed, funny and a nice guy: "Our focus in '97 was about taking the centre ground and about keeping that centre ground.
"The only traditions we broke with was Labour party losing elections, because that's what the Labour party did in the past.
"We did that by capturing the centre ground and shifting it to the left. Issues like international development, national minimum wage, work-life balance would have been considered left-wing issues - now they're mainstream issues.
"That's why Cameron wants to get onto our territory. That's why we mustn't move off of it"

Hain: the moment when he realised that invited to praise each other, none of the rest had mentioned him. I felt genuinely sorry for him. Also proved he is ignorant of Labour history by claiming every Deputy Leader has been Deputy PM - incorrect as George Brown's final 3 years as DL were as a backbencher. But he was a Liberal then so he probably didn't notice.

Benn: excellent answer to the idiot in the audience who suggested Iraq was more important than dealing with poverty. Managed to summarise why the Labour Party exists in his attack on inequality.

Harman: the master of unsubstantiated assertions: "I would make the best team with Gordon" ... er, why exactly?

Cruddas: suit purchased from surplus wardrobe of 1940s time-travel sitcom "Goodnight Sweetheart". Politics of a similar vintage. Not just lurching left but burning any remaining bridges with mainstream opinion in the party at a rapid pace. How exactly would we fight a General Election with a Deputy Leader opposed to Trident replacement? Answers on a postcard please to the Tory HQ Attack Unit, who must be preparing their "Cruddas and Brown disagreements dossier" and rubbing their hands with glee. Needs to stop rubbing his nose on national TV as well. Still seems like a clever, nice bloke though. Just a totally wrong clever, nice bloke. And all his best ideas (party reform, housing) have been picked up by Gordon anyway, so he doesn't need the job now.


Blogger Jackson Jeffrey Jackson said...

"if we go into punitive taxes"

That straw man's looking a bit ropey there.

Which of the candidates is in favour of punitive taxes?

12:31 pm, June 15, 2007

Blogger kimmitt said...

It was pretty outrageous that none of them mentioned Hain + Northern Ireland and he did genuinely look hurt.

Particularly since Cruddas chose Johnson on the grounds that he had skilfully forced a piece of legislation with which he fundamentally disagreed through Parliament. Weird.

1:26 pm, June 15, 2007

Blogger LeeF said...

I think Cruddas' recognition of Alan's political skill is something we are seeing more of as the campaign progresses, even where there is a fundamental policy disagreement.

The reason that Hain didn't get credit on Northern Ireland is because he didn't do it, just like he didn't end aparthied in South Africa.

My personal favourite moment was Hazel sticking it to Harriet by reminding everyone that it was Alan who had done the most in terms of extending maternity/ paternity leave and helping families. All Harriet ever did in cabinet was cut benefits to single mothers.

All a bit late in terms of voting I would have thought, because the bulk of the membership will probably have voted by last night, but I think Alan is justified in having the tag of favourite.

2:21 pm, June 15, 2007

Blogger Sham said...

I was in the audience, and I've gotta say that most of the audience seemed to like what Cruddas was saying - and bear in mind this was a mix of 50% Labour and 50% non-Labour - but the candidate they liked the least was Harman.

Even when Blears praised Johnson for introducing statutory maternity pay she tried to claim the credit; add to that her arrogance in claiming to be Gordon's best friend and complete about turn on Iraq and it was a pretty lamentable performance.

The existence of WMDs was ruled out within months of the invasion, was it not, so how come it's taken her four years to reach the conclusion that "the war was bad"?

3:06 pm, June 15, 2007

Blogger Chris Paul said...

Harman's "unsubstantiated assertion" is presumably based on the polls and bar charts here based on a sample of 2200 or so.

It's only a poll. And there has been some back chat. But I'm not happy to let Luke get away with unsubstantiated assertions against any candidate.

3:41 pm, June 15, 2007

Anonymous groundhogday said...


4:51 pm, June 15, 2007

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Luke -

Although I am not suporting Benn his repsonse to that dreadful woman in the audience - I've NEVER heard a worse "Mockney" speak in my bloody life - was excellent.

Neither am I supporting Hain, but he did look pretty gutted not to be mentioned and I felt sorry for him, especially as it was the last screen schot of the whole programme.

Soft old me!

5:05 pm, June 15, 2007

Anonymous James said...

I am surprised you've decided to start throwing stones around your glass house by having a pop at Cruddas's dress sense....

5:37 pm, June 15, 2007

Anonymous hovedan said...

They were all ok. HH was great about hoew radical labour was in 1997 - the minimum wage, devolution etc. and we have to be raidcal for 2007, and being so is not a lurch to the left.

But in reality most of us have now voted - so its all a bit academic - and perhaps always was - i think that Tony was sort of correct in PMQs the other day when he said the important issue was leadership - and thats Gordon - not some deputy.

Sham - as for Iraq - even one of Tony's former key advisers has said that if they knew then what they know now about WMD, and the lack of post invasion planning, none of them, including Tony, would have taken us into the war... its fully acknowledged amongst key people in downing street that much of the post invasion has been a disaster - but its not easy to say it until Tony leaves office - and we have to be aware that we still have over 5000 troops there - putting their lives on the line each day - and such a public statement of regret could undermine their moral. And it would be a huge disservice to our troops to do that. The test is now an orderly and staggered withdrawal of troops, support to the iraqi government and troops and investment in the iraqi economy - that is the least we owe the people of Iraq.

6:01 pm, June 15, 2007

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Chris Paul's criticism of Luke's attack on Harman has clearly hit a raw nerve for Luke and others in Hazel's camp.
Which is probably explained by the fact that there is a strong case for a woman DL - and Harriet has a point in suggesting that Gordon and Harriet could be a strong team - and betting exchange has Blears at 99/1 and Harman at 7/1!

Meanwhile Luke's attack on Cruddas is totally unhelpful to Labour's prospects.
John winning the Deputy Leadership from a perspective that is clearly to the left of Gordon Brown, whilst taking reasonable and carefully crafted political positions in support of social justice and solidarity yet a lot more sophisticated than 'two jags' - and from a London perspective - represents a very balanced and electable ticket in my view.
Does anybody really believe that supporting Trident replacement 'builds bridges' with popular opinion?
Well I guess the blog is in Luke's name so... !

11:54 pm, June 15, 2007

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry Luke, but you're deluded over Hazel. The party want change and Hazel arguments defeats itself. She is going to come last. If we carry on like Hazel wants to for another ten years, we'll end up out of government anyway. Her whole line stinks and sounds like she doesn't give a damn about the Labour Party members.

The party WANT change and there's only Cruddas offering that in my opnion

10:04 am, June 16, 2007

Blogger Doctor Dunc said...

But in reality most of us have now voted - so its all a bit academic - and perhaps always was - i think that Tony was sort of correct in PMQs the other day when he said the important issue was leadership - and thats Gordon - not some deputy.

You're quite right. They wouldn't let us have a vote on anything that mattered.

10:46 am, June 16, 2007

Blogger Sham said...

Hovedan - why is Harman now saying she opposed the overthrow of Saddam in principle?

And had the post-invasion planning been better, and the present death toll been lower, would she still be saying "it was only ever about WMDs for me"?

As I said, it's taken until the advent of the deputy leadership contest for her to articulate these views, probably in vain given most Labour members who opposed the war will be voting for Mr Cruddas anyway.

8:55 pm, June 16, 2007

Anonymous Hovedan said...

as far as i can see Harriet is saying that the basis on which we sent troops to war - wmd - was wrong. At no point did Tony say that we were sending troops to iraq as a way of regime change (perhaps he should) but the basis of the vote in Parliament was on Iraq having WMD. That has now been proven not to be the case. You could argue that she should have resigned as soon as she realised this (months after the invasion) However that would apply to the whole of the Government - including Tony. At no point did Tony present a case to the country that we invade iraq as a matter of principle - in fact he said Saddam could stay if he gave up WMD..those of us who supported the war have to acknowledge we were wrong.

8:55 pm, June 17, 2007

Blogger Sham said...

The aim was to remove Saddam from power and disarm his regime.

The Prime Minister's opening statement in the parliamentary debate: "At the outset, I say that it is right that the House debate this issue and pass judgment.

"That is the democracy that is our right, but that others struggle for in vain."

If anyone could have prevented war, it was Saddam. He was given 48 hours to get out of Baghdad by President Bush. He refused.

If anyone's to blame for all the deaths - both during and after his reign - it's him.

Those of us who supported the war have to acknowledge we were wrong.

Not me.

And I repeat, will Harman have been coming out with all this had the death toll been lower and the post-invasion planning been better?

10:01 pm, June 17, 2007

Anonymous hovedan said...

UN resolution 1441, was described by the PM as Saddam's "Final opportunity" (18 March 2003) to dissarm. My understanding is that Saddam's none compliance resulted in the decision to invade Iraq. However Iraq did not have WMD, as such it was not materially possible for Saddam to comply with resolution 1441 (it would be like a police officer saying to somebody in the street "drop your weapon" - only for the accused to say "I dont have a weapon" and then the police officer shoots the person - for not dropping a non existent weapon)

On the evidence that informed the PMs views he said to Parliament " It became clear, after the Gulf war, that Iraq's WMD ambitions were far more extensive than had hitherto been thought."

But we now know Saddam did not have these WMDs. As such the basis of war was flawed (albeit Blair believed that Saddam did have WMDs).

What many people who supported the war, as of march 2003, are saying, is that we went to war on a wrong premise. Given there were no WMDs -one death perperated in the invasion would be too much so Harriet, people in No10, and the rest of us have said that the reasons for war were wrong. If now you say we went to war just to get rid of Saddam, that is a different point, and as you know "regime change" is illegal in international law.

10:30 pm, June 17, 2007

Blogger Sham said...

The fact remains that had the death toll not been as great, and public opposition not been so fierce (and had there not been a deputy leadership contest in which to chase Labour members' votes) I think it highly unlikely, highly unlikely indeed that Harman would have come out and said any of this.

The sight of ever increasing numbers of Labour MPs who supported the war now saying it was wrong and claiming they were against it all along, leaving the Prime Minister to face his accusers alone, is too incredulous for words.

These unprincipled back-stabbers aren't fit to lace his boots.

11:31 pm, June 17, 2007

Blogger Paul Linford said...

Hain was even more misinformed about Labour history than you think. Unless I am very much mistaken, Prescott and George Brown are the ONLY deputy leaders who ever actually had the title deputy PM!

All other deputy leaders in government have held the titles Leader of the House of Commons and/or Lord President of the Council - Herbert Morrison under Attlee, Ted Short under Wilson, Michael Foot under Callaghan.

The other deputy leaders - Nye Bevan, Roy Jenkins, Denis Healey, Roy Hattersley and Margaret Beckett - were all in opposition when they held the post.

8:59 pm, June 21, 2007


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