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, October 05, 2007

Give Kensington CLP a choice

Members of Kensington CLP need to have other candidates to choose from, not just Tony Benn, who has been promoting his possible parliamentary come-back there to the media.

I fear a Benn candidature will become a damaging media distraction in a General Election. It will give him a platform to attack Labour's leadership and manifesto and damage the Party nationally.

Kensington members need to be presented with a choice.

Here are the selection details for anyone who wants "I stopped Tony Benn's final comeback" on their CV - and who would be a better campaigner and more on-message candidate than the man who lost Bristol East to the Tories and inherited rock-solid safe Chesterfield and bequeathed it after 17 years as a Lib Dem seat:

Seat: Kensington
New seat
AWS: No - open selection
Closing date for applications: 10 October
Shortlisting: 5 November
Hustings: 24 November
Procedures Secretary: Lee Jameson
16 Notting Barn Road
LondonW10 5YW
Email: kensingtonclp@yahoo.co.uk

27 Comments:

Blogger Doctor Dunc said...

Luke - of course there should be a choice if anybody else chooses to put up for Kensington, but this mini-vendetta is ridiculous. It should be perfectly obvious to any vaguely politically literate person (and you are more than vaguely politically literate, so I must assume your motives are not the psephological ones you put forward) that Tony Benn is considerably more likely to win Kensington for Labour than any other candidate they are likely to select. A personal vote battle between Rifkind and Benn will transcend the notional party arithmetic in the constituency. So if your primary interest is in getting as many Labour MPs as possible, you should just shut up and butt out.

As for your specific charges, I will give you the benefit of the doubt that your memory has not served you well. The Bristol constituency boundaries were all re-drawn before the '83 election and Benn found himself in the same position as many MPs at this election. Bristol South East ceased to exist. Michael Cocks was selected in Bristol South (we can debate the extent to which the selection was fixed till the cows come home). Despite offers of safe seats to 'chicken run' to, Benn decided to fight the far-from-safe Bristol East because 'by going I would be condemning Bristol East and Kingswood to defeat by assuming they would be lost'. Perhaps we should make a list of MPs who have taken a different decision this time?

As for Chesterfield; yes, it was a rock solid Labour seat when it was a mining town. By the 90s economic and demographic changes in Chesterfield meant that it was kept a Labour seat because of Tony's personal vote: he was a hugely popular in the seat. The party in its wisdom decided not to take advantage of that personal vote following Tony's resignation and subsequently lost the seat.

9:06 am, October 06, 2007

 
Anonymous hovedan said...

There are number of things here Luke - Benn would be an intersting candidate for Kensington - he would be a distration - but if you rememeber the last election he was incredibly supportive and helpful. His candidacy could energise the party in K&C and give it a bit of a fillip. certainly hes local and the media would give it attention - but rememeber he is a party loyalist and would not jeopardise a close electtion.

Doctor Dunc - you are so worng about chesterfield. Im originally from Chesterfield, was there during the by election, the miners strike etc etc. The local party was taken over by the left, who quite frankly lacked signficant organisational skills and let the party wither -You assert that tony was "hugely popular", and his personal vote kept us in power there depsite demographic changes - this is just an assertion backed up by no evidence - its simply not the case that the demographics have significantly changed - although unemployment has fallen since 1997 - the workforce is now much more service based than engineeering/mining, but that is the case across many towns and cities which have stayed labour. Benn conveniently resigned the seat before an election he knew he would lose - you will find few people in Chesterfield Labour party who think differently.

In conclusion Benn could be a good candidate in K&C - but do not expect him to win and if by some miracle he does, you'd better get somebody else to run the local party.

10:05 am, October 06, 2007

 
Anonymous jdc said...

"You assert that tony was "hugely popular", and his personal vote kept us in power there depsite demographic changes - this is just an assertion backed up by no evidence"

Well, I'm not necessarily a fan, nor do I necessarily think he should be selected in Kensington, but the evidence would I guess be that during Benn's time as the MP the Labour vote went from 45% in 87 to 47.5% in 92 to just over 50% in 97, and then fell back to 42% in 2001.

It's hard to find a comparator that would tell you what this performance merits, since (primarily due to by-election consequences) there aren't other working-class seats in the North where the Liberals have been in second place for a long time.

10:21 am, October 06, 2007

 
Blogger Doctor Dunc said...

Well I don't want to get into a row about local knowledge 'hovedan', but your take on the Chesterfield situation is certainly very different from literally hundreds of people from Chesterfield I've spoken to on this subject (from all wings of the Labour Party and from other parties too). I can tell you the the Liberal Democrats in Chesterfield were delighted by Benn's decision to retire and felt it would more-or-less guarantee them the seat. The electoral evidence appears to back up my analysis as does all previous anecdotal evidence I've come across (though I read your take on it with interest).

The idea that the left 'took over' Chesterfield Labour Party is actually just a rather silly one. Benn won the selection in Chesterfield through a lot of hard graft: the NUM were supporting a different candidate (giving Benn their second preference) there were local candidates who had a lot of support in local wards, and there was an extraordinary amount of media pressure on party members not to select him, but - to cut a long story short, select him they did (in the end with more votes than the next two candidates combined, suggesting that the left was pretty strong in the party before Benn became MP, as indeed the left was pretty strong in most CLPs at the time, without any need for 'take-overs'). I might add that Benn made a particular effort to ensure that Front Bench people (including people who had been considered enemies in the past) were very high profile in the by-election and made that public act of reconciliation: the idea of Benn being a destructive and disloyal force is an invention of the media and the right.

I hope he gets selected in Kensington and, with the recent boundary changes, I would not rule out the possibility of him winning. Benn has played a part in Kensington Labour Party for a very long time (he was their conference delegate in 1983, when he was out of parliament!)

10:57 am, October 06, 2007

 
Blogger grimupnorth said...

Having read the Benn diaries my understanding is that Benn resigned in Chesterfield because his late wife was by then seriously ill. I saw him at Conference, indeed shared a platform with him and he's fighting fit. Go Tony! The Party loves you and you can win.

11:36 am, October 06, 2007

 
Blogger Chris Paul said...

I agree with Grimmer. Go Tony Go! Luke's appraisal is utter tosh. Probably putting his own papers in. The assertion from JDC re no seats in the North with Libs in second to Labour for a good time doesn't bear examination. Rochdale was one. The Oldhams both still are I think?

They have been second party in Man Central for some years now, and Man Gort. The same probably applies in other pockets. Benn would not have lost the seat at the ballot box.

1:50 pm, October 06, 2007

 
Anonymous jdc said...

Chris - I take your point but I still disagree.

Rochdale was less a seat with the Lib Dems in second place than a Liberal seat that Labour managed to snatch in a 'high tide' year with a lot of hard work.

The Lib Dems are nowhere in Oldham West, and while they were indeed in second place in the Littleborough and Saddleworth constituency which is now Oldham East in the 80s and 90s, it was to the Tories, not Labour! Same goes for Cheadle, Hazel Grove, and Southport.

2:01 pm, October 06, 2007

 
Blogger John said...

I've now reconsidered my position on this - I stand by my argument that good politicians are those who evangelise at the same time as getting practical progress, but I agree that Benn is the only labour person likely to win in a seat like this, and if that means one more Labour MP, then that's great with me. I don't think he'd be the best MP for those constituents, but he'd at least be a Labour MP, and that's what matters.

3:13 pm, October 06, 2007

 
Anonymous brown's a bottler said...

Election off!

Akehurst, you're a chicken!

Cam's the man!

4:20 pm, October 06, 2007

 
Anonymous hovedan said...

Doctor Dunc - Benn's majority in '87 was 8,577 in '92, 6414, and in 97 5,775 - lets face facts the guy was not enormously popular! in fairness to Benn, the reason why we lost Chesterfield was the collapse in the Tory Vote from 25% to 9% from 1987 to 1997 and that vote switching to Lib dems.

5:48 pm, October 06, 2007

 
Blogger Doctor Dunc said...

Despite the share of the vote going up. I.e. that illustrates that the turnout fell, which is not in question.

8:30 pm, October 06, 2007

 
Blogger Doctor Dunc said...

However - I do acknowledge your second point. Do you have any suggestions for that quite spectacular collapse in the Tory vote? At that time I'd have thought the majority was too big to encourage many people to indulge in organised tactical voting? In my other life as a Labour historian I do have an incomplete biography of Benn (along with one or two others!) hiding in the nether regions of my laptop; shame you weren't one of the people I interviewed at the time, because it would have been a unique take on these matters - I didn't actually talk to anyone from Chesterfield who didn't say Benn was an exemplary constituency MP - and that included quite a lot of Tories!)

8:35 pm, October 06, 2007

 
Anonymous hovedan said...

Doctor Dunc - my first comment on this blog on this thread was somewhat supportive of Tony Benn's candidancy for K&C. I then challenged the idea that he had a stong personal vote in chesterfield. i was the Secretary of the LP YS Chestefield branch at the time of the by election (the only non Militant branch of the ys in the East midlands at the time!) and we nominated Benn. BTW the NUM nominally did not support him but i was given lots of supprt from Peter heathfield (the gen sec of the NUM at the time) to support Benn. my own view for the collapse of the tory vote was twofold; the very well organised Lib Dems in Chesterfield and in 1997 total collapse of the tory vote nationally which was bigger in chesterfield because of tactical voting. However where i differ from Luke (who i respect and think is often correct in his analysis) is to suggest benn the candidate was the reason why we lost chesterfield, just as your analysis (as i intrepret it) that he had a significant personal vote.

12:33 am, October 07, 2007

 
Blogger Dave Brinson said...

I have to disagree with Luke's analysis on this one- while Benn hasn't got a hope in hell of winning the seat, it will be good publicity, will give Rifkind a decent run for his money (Benn may be Left, but he's sharp) and will counter any suggestions that we take age into account in our selections (one of the suggestions from the Wareing camp, in Liverpool, used to distract from his appalling record as an MP...)

10:32 am, October 07, 2007

 
Blogger Doctor Dunc said...

Hovedan - yes I know Heathfield and Scargill supported Benn for the selection, despite the local branch of the NUM having a local member as their first choice. I also knew that the YS backed him. As I understand it, our only point of difference is whether Benn commanded a significant personal vote that went beyond the party political maths. I have quite a lot of anecdotal evidence to suggest that he did, but it's not something that can be proven statistically. After all, just as the voting figures can be used either way (the increasing percentage of the vote for Benn versus the declining popular vote) comparing the voting in similar constituencies with less high-profile members is fraught with difficulties. It's hard to imagine someone who could be one of only a few living politicians voted into the Top 100 greatest ever Britons for the BBC wouldn't have a personal vote of some sort even if it weren't based on constituency work (though many of his former constituents have praised his constituency work very highly, so I'm sure it was). Of course being very high profile can have a negative impact on a personal vote too (he tends to be loved or loathed).

1:14 pm, October 07, 2007

 
Anonymous Shambolic said...

Akehurst writes of Benn: "the man who ... inherited rock-solid safe Chesterfield and bequeathed it after 17 years as a Lib Dem seat."

grimupnorth said...

Having read the Benn diaries my understanding is that Benn resigned in Chesterfield because his late wife was by then seriously ill.

Akehurst? ... kick a man when he was down? ... never .... surely?

7:39 pm, October 07, 2007

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Luke Akehurst for the Kensington nomination! Yeah! Akehurst versus Benn - it'll be (kind-of) NUS politics all over again.

10:12 am, October 08, 2007

 
Anonymous dalston dan said...

I agree; if Akehurst isn't happy with Benn as a nominee (and thinks he could do a better job) he should put himself forward!

But, if nominated, Akehurst might have to leave Hackney and ... then what would we do?

We would have a celebration AND a party!

3:25 pm, October 08, 2007

 
Blogger Luke Akehurst said...

Thanks but I've done my share of fighting Tory-held seats.

3:39 pm, October 08, 2007

 
Anonymous Toby Perkins said...

As a member of Chesterfield CLP who, in the process of seeking nomination for the Parliamentary seat this year has met over 90% of the Party, I am possibly uniquely placed to comment on the issue of how members of the Party see Tony Benn.

Of course as with most issues opinions differ wildly, and think Tony had the effect of polarising opinion both within the Labour Party and within Chesterfield.

DD is certainly wrong to say that all CLP members share his view, although clearly Chesterfield has become much more middle class so have many other areas without too detrimental an impact on the Labour vote.

My view (neatly straddling the fence, I guess) is that Tony's personal vote was sufficiently large to mean that he would have held Chesterfield in almost any circumstances, but that it was also his presence that made Tories so happy to vote Liberal to get him out and turned Chesterfield into a total 2 horse race.

I also believe that most competent candidates would have won the seat in 1997, such was the tide in Labour's favour and would have been better able to take advantage of the middle class 'new' labour vote.

As I say this is a purely personal view and there are many who have more strident views from either side of the debate.

4:13 pm, October 08, 2007

 
Blogger Doctor Dunc said...

Toby - to clarify I didn't say all members shared Tony's view; just that all the people I spoke to when doing some research were full of praise for Tony's work as a constituency MP. I would agree with you that the personal vote thing is a double-edged sword and is likely to have encouraged a consolidation of the non-Labour vote around the Liberals.

9:03 pm, October 08, 2007

 
Anonymous Toby Perkins said...

OK DD, I'll accept that explanation. I was interested in your comment about the party not building on Tony's personal vote, surely a personal vote is purely that- peronal, and doesn't pass on to anyone else.

Nonetheless it was clear that in 2001 the difference between the level of work on the ground done by the lib dems and by labour was dramatically different.

I'm glad to say that the level of activity in Chesterfield in the last 3 or 4 years has been significantly increased and subsequently the 2005 GE and 2007 Council elections both saw very minimal swings between the parties despite the improving picture for the lib dems at the time of those elections.

9:50 pm, October 08, 2007

 
Blogger Doctor Dunc said...

Toby - well, if you're right that there was something of a coalition of convenience between Tories and Liberals in Chesterfield, then we might expect to see it break down (indeed may have expected to see it break down in 2005).

My point about the party not taking advantage of Tony's personal vote was just an impression that I had that something of a Year Zero approach was taken ("whatever you do, don't mention the Benn - I mentioned it once but I think I got away with it!")

1:03 pm, October 09, 2007

 
Blogger Ravi Gopaul said...

maurice1My personal view is that we should be glad that the iconic Tony Benn plans a return to the Labour benches. I hope he'll have a clear run as we don't need any more New Labour robots in Westminster. That said it is up to Kensington CLP, but as they make their deliberatios maybe they could consider having an MP whose primary focus is not to climb the career ladder and one who could show those "young Turks" on our benches what it means to have a backbone.

5:17 pm, October 09, 2007

 
Blogger Ravi Gopaul said...

Sorry that post should have read:

My personal view is that we should be glad that the iconic Tony Benn plans a return to the Labour benches. I hope he'll have a clear run as we don't need any more New Labour robots in Westminster. That said it is up to Kensington CLP, but as they make their deliberatios maybe they could consider having an MP whose primary focus is not to climb the career ladder and one who could show those "young Turks" on our benches what it means to have a backbone.

5:19 pm, October 09, 2007

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Luke Akehurst said...

Thanks but I've done my share of fighting Tory-held seats.

3:39 PM, October 08, 2007
========
How many Labour-held seats have you been selected for? Or do they reject you when they realise you might have a chance of winning?

Genuine question.

10:45 pm, October 12, 2007

 
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