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.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Labour's choices

Labour members are nearing the half way stage in a big set of internal party elections. At the moment members who sit on constituency General Committees are voting on nominations for Leader, Mayor of London candidate (if they are in London), Treasurer, 6 constituency reps on the NEC (National Executive Committee), and 4 and a youth rep from each region on the NPF (National Policy Forum).

In August and September, ballot papers go out. It's going to be a complex ballot paper, with 13 votes to be cast (14 for Londoners) and preferential voting for the leader.

My perspective as someone on the moderate wing of the Party is that it looks like we are avoiding a repetition of the mistakes we have made every previous time we have gone into opposition. In 1931, 1951, 1970 and 1979 the party moved violently to the left after leaving office, with members blaming the parliamentary leadership for defeat, demanding a move towards full-blooded socialism and trashing our record in office. This time the mood is a lot less knee-jerk and a lot more considered. Every Labour member has policies we implemented that they didn't like, but the overall record of the 1997-2010 government is viewed as on balance a positive one, and Gordon Brown's departure from the scene means that unlike the previous defeats when Attlee, Wilson and Callaghan stayed on as leader, someone has very quickly been seen, with great dignity, to take personal responsibility and the party has been able to move on to a debate about the future.

I don't think members are going to get excited about the Mandelson memoirs. Personally, I'll buy them because I enjoy reading gossip about the interplay between personalities. But I'll read them in a similar vein to reading a book about infighting between Herbert Morrison and Ernest Bevin: of historical interest but not really relevant to what happens in the future, other than as a lesson in how not to behave. I'm far more interested in what the relationships are between the coming generation of Labour's senior figures, and whether David, Ed, Ed and Andy get on with each other and can work together, than in what the previous generation of leaders said about or to each other. I also suggest this new book isn't going to tell us much we hadn't already heard in numerous other memoirs, diaries and blog posts over the last ten years. You would really have to have been living on the moon to not know already that Blair and Brown had a tense relationship.

As for the current races, the supporting nominations for Leader provide an idea of how each candidate is doing.

We already know how they are likely to do amongst MPs as nominations have closed. Taking into account those MPs who have openly expressed an intention to vote for a different MP to the one they nominated (as their nominations were tactical ones to get someone on the ballot) this third of the electoral college splits as follows on first preferences:

David Miliband - 90 MPs + 6 MEPs - 11.84% of electoral college
Ed Miliband - 63 MPs + 6 MEPs - 8.51% of electoral college
Ed Balls - 34 MPs - 4.19% of electoral college
Andy Burnham - 31 MPs + 1 MEP - 3.95% of electoral college
Diane Abbott - 24 MPs - 2.96% of electoral college (this may overestimate her support)
Not declared, undecided or not voting - 15 MPs - 1.85% of electoral college

If any MPs don't vote (presumably Brown, Harman and possibly Straw and the Chief Whip won't) the share of the electoral college each MP and MP who does vote is worth goes up slightly.
In the CLPs only 98 supporting nominations have come in out of a possible 635 (633 GB constituencies, Labour International and Northern Ireland) according to the party website, though more are anecdotally reported. Lots are meeting at the end of July just before the deadline, and others won't bother nominating as the supporting nominations don't have any real impact other than to demonstrate momentum. On this basis then - that they just illustrate the strength of the candidates' ground campaigns, the ones received to date are:

David Miliband - 40
Ed Miliband - 37
Andy Burnham - 11
Diane Abbott - 9
Ed Balls - 4

It's obvious that both Milibands have a very serious field operation going and that they are running a lot closer to each other in this section of the electoral college than in the PLP. It's surprising that Ed Balls has so few so far given the strong campaign he is running - he may pick up more at the end as some of the CLPs of MPs that nominated him haven't met yet and his high-profile attacks on Michael Gove over BSF were very recent. Also surprising is that the organised hard left has not delivered more CLPs for Diane - she is running well behind the nominations their NEC slate is getting. There are some regional clusters - 6 of Burnham's 11 are in the North West where he is an MP, 12 of David Miliband's are from Scotland where his campaign manager Jim Murphy is based and 5 are from the North East where he is an MP.

The unions and socialist societies are the third of the electoral college where we know least. When a union nominates someone their endorsement has in the past persuaded about 50% of voting members to go the way advised. So far only 4 organisations have nominated. NULSC (Labour social clubs) has backed Burnham, perhaps unsurprisingly as they are concentrated in his home region of the North West. They are usually one of the largest of the non-union affiliates. Two mid-sized unions USDAW (shop workers) and Community (steel workers and former steel communities) have backed David Miliband but that's about as surprising as Massachusetts and Rhode Island voting Democrat, as these unions have always been the most Blairite ones. The small TSSA (transport salaried staff) has backed Abbott, which surprises me as they were historically to the right of the other transport unions - I've obviously not kept pace with their internal politics. We have yet to see decisions from any of the big players: Unite, Unison, GMB and CWU. These nominations will come at the end of this month when various national political committees and national execs have met - I'm guessing there is a fight between the two Eds for the extremely important Unite nomination.

I would stand by my earlier prediction that David M will lead on the first ballot and be overtaken by his brother after other candidates are knocked out and their second preferences reallocated.

Treasurer is an interesting battle this time though not quite on the epic scale of Bevan versus Gaitskell, Callaghan versus Foot, Greenwood versus Morrison, or Bevan versus George Brown. In one corner is former Deputy Leader John Prescott. In the other, backed by the major trade unions (who have 50% of the vote) and the left is Diana Holland, veteran TGWU member of the NEC. An odd position for JP to be in - not the candidate of the unions and the left. Rather different to his initial 1988 bid for Deputy Leader.

Unlike Gaby Hinscliff ( http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/jul/12/labour-london-mayor-king-livingstone) I don't see the Ken vs Oona contest for Mayor of London candidate as revealing much about Labour's direction. It's actually more about running with a familiar candidate with known strengths and flaws or a more youthful insurgent. My hunch is that Ken will win relatively easily because 50% of the vote is held by the unions and the London TULO (trade unions for Labour) committee strongly back him, and because key regional players who are not ideologically close to him are backing him on grounds of experience and their views probably reflect grassroots opinion. Livingstone nowadays is not quite the divisive character inside London Labour that he was in 1981 or 1990 because his record as Mayor on his actual responsibilities was mainstream (as opposed to some of his views on international issues). He seems to be conducting some sort of long-term realignment - his Socialist Action support group are increasingly close to the soft left Compass rather than the ultra left Labour Briefing - and has endorsed Balls for Leader which must have hurt his longtime ally Abbott.

I won't say much about the NEC as I'm a candidate and thus have an interest to declare. I think it's an exciting race though. There may be as many as 17 or 18 candidates on the ballot paper for six places depending on whether the left Grassroots Alliance can get all its candidates validly nominated and decide which of them it wants to run. My guess is that two candidates from their slate and two of their opponents will get on fairly easily through name recognition, and then there are four or five others including me battling it out for the final two places. I'm on 34 CLP nominations and counting.

The regional CLP reps on the NPF will be fascinating as they have never been elected by One Member One Vote before but rather were previously elected by annual conference delegates, which was seen as helpful to pro-leadership candidates. The basic story will be of moderate incumbents facing a left challenge as there are only a handful of left-backed incumbents. Those incumbents who have been active in reporting back to and consulting members in their regions should get re-elected as they may have name recognition amongst longer-serving and more active members.

Whether most members will get to the bottom of their 13 or 14 vote-long ballot paper and bother with us "down ticket" candidates is of course open to question.


Blogger Red72 said...

Sounds sycophantic, but very interesting piece.

I still think Ed Miliband has a very good chance of winning, but I wonder if the money behind his brother is starting to have an effect. Also I think many vote for less than rational,or at least ideological reasons. Two people in our CLP spoke in fairly hostile terms about the Labour Governments 1997-2010 one very much so. They then ended up voting for David Miliband and Andy Burnham!

6:45 pm, July 12, 2010

Anonymous M said...

Ed Miliband just does not look like a Prime Minister to me and I have desperately tried to visualise him in the role. I am also very put off by his complete disingenuousness in writing the manifesto and then denouncing the very policies he supported only 3 months ago. I consider myself on the soft left of the party but I support David Miliband because he is at least true to himself in his views and would terrify the Tories. The next Labour leader needs to be someone we can actually imagine being Prime Minister. Ed Miliband would just be a caretaker leader.

9:33 pm, July 12, 2010

Anonymous Andrea said...

"My guess is that two candidates from their slate and two of their opponents will get on fairly easily through name recognition,"

Ken, Black, Oona and Reeves?

10:49 pm, July 12, 2010

Blogger Merseymike said...

For the NEC I will vote for a balance as I always do. I can't imagine anything as mindless as voting for a slate!

Not sure if I can vote for you Luke, simply because you are so far to the right on defence, and I want to see a fundamental shift away from liberal interventionism

12:23 am, July 13, 2010

Anonymous Michael Edwards said...

TSSA's publicly stated reason for backing Dianne Abbott is "Diane was the only candidate who supported our policy of a publicly owned railway without any quaification or hesitation."
The hint as to the union's internal politics may yield more, but I do know that there is real frustration within the union's senior membership on the question of ownership of the railways.
Opportunities for some kind of public ownership of the train operating companies have been passed over.
This is very significant for a union which once represented public sector workers, but is now investing heavily in workplace reps to counteract the conduct of managers in the private sector.
I might understand an argument that says for a party trying to win back middle England, Diane Abbott is not the choice.
But as a tssa-sponsored middle England candidate at the last General Election, it transpires that one of the things that held us back was a lack of effective union representation in private sector workplaces.
Nothing to withstand the replacement of workers with cheaper agency workers, and little to counter-act some of the myths that developed with it.
(Local firms expecting local people to buy their products, but not feeling they need to provide local jobs.)
Having attended meetings for Ed Miliband and David Milband, there is some sign that this concern is starting to be understood and recognised.
But fully grasping the significance and looking for a Labour movement response might be one of the benefits we might get from the extended leadership campaign.

5:40 am, July 13, 2010

Anonymous FB said...

Luke, i'd be interested to hear how you think the London NPF nominations are looking, anecdotally...

9:13 am, July 13, 2010

Blogger Jackson Jeffrey Jackson said...

He [Ken] seems to be conducting some sort of long-term realignment

That's a polite way of saying "has been moving rightwards for thirty years"!

9:43 am, July 13, 2010

Blogger Edward Carlsson Browne said...

Is it surprising that Abbott has few nominations? Her campaign doesn't appear to have a clear direction, so organisation is lacking, and I'm not that sure that the left is that enthusiastic about her.

The hard left wanted McDonnell and may be bitter that Abbott made it impossible for him to get on the ballot. In the meantime Balls' confrontational performances versus Gove have probably won over some of the others.

The soft left is being very ably appealed to by Miliband junior and plenty of other candidates are keeping their options open, as it's probably the key swing vote.

Pragmatists don't see Abbott as a leader we can win with. Plenty of ordinary members with an animus towards private schooling resent Abbott for taking her son private. Plenty of others don't know if we can trust somebody who's spent that long with Andrew Neil without decking him.

She'll garner the support of those who really wanted to be able to vote for a black/female candidate, but I don't honestly see her appeal beyond that (and I agree with her on the vast majority of issues). I think a lot of people are glad to see her in the race, but won't vote for her because of her politics, her public profile, the schooling issue, her personality-based campaign, her electability and any one of a couple of dozen other reasons.

As the other four haven't put themselves beyond the pale for the membership (even if they haven't done much either way bar attend hustings) Abbott has no opening.

4:55 pm, July 13, 2010

Blogger Harry Barnes said...

Would it not assist understanding in the Labour Party if each of the leadership candidates were to issue a personal manifesto explaining in detail the direction in which they would seek to lead the Party? Only Andy Burnham has responded to this proposal so far and he has accepted it. Luke and others can see what is being proposed and consider giving their support here - http://dronfieldblather.blogspot.com/2010/06/calling-those-with-voting-rights-in.html

(I have attempted to post this on the version that appears on "Labour List", but it keeps rejecting it although I have registered)

5:46 pm, July 13, 2010

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Labour's choices?

A public schoolboy,two millionaire tax avoiders,one token no-hoper black woman & Andy!


5:58 pm, July 13, 2010

Anonymous Conor said...

This is a very good piece Luke. I tend to agree with you about Ed M coming in from behind on second preferences. But the most striking thing about this set of elections is that they are being fought firmly within the boundaries of sanity, which is not at all what I was expecting to happen after a Labour election defeat.

6:22 pm, July 13, 2010

Anonymous Andrea said...

does anyone know the membership size of the various socialist societies=?

6:58 pm, July 13, 2010

Anonymous snowflake5 said...

Interesting analysis. I think the leadership election is more wide open at the moment than it was a few weeks ago (which means the long campaign is having an effect).

I started off leaning towards Ed Miliband, but am increasingly convinced that he's just not right for the leadership. Andy Burnham and Ed Balls are both doing extremely well, first in their shadow minister briefs and also in revealing themselves as much more interesting than their stereotypes.

If we were going to go for a "break from the past" candidate, I'd plump for Burnham rather than any of the others - he's intelligent and interesting and he isn't really associated in the public's mind with the previous government. I also like Burnham's hostility to the whole AV/PR thing. Also, non-political people in general like him much more than the others, and that's not something to be sneezed at.

If we were going to plump for a robust Essex-type man, then Ed Balls would win it.

David Miliband has been the most disappointing - he seems to spout wonkery all the time, and I suspect even he does not know what he means.

I think this election might throw up a surprise in the CLPs and affiliates colleges (though the PLP is as predictable as ever).

10:58 pm, July 13, 2010

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Snowflake - until last week I might have agreed with your critique of Miliband Major....

But do you know about his speech last Friday?? It really was very, very good - and refreshingly free of depressing wonk-speak;-)

One sppech doesn't change everything on its own, of course - but it is a sign he might after all have what it takes (I am still expecting him to win, maybe in all three sections)

And nothing has changed my view that Balls would be a disaster. His opportunistic lurching to the left (Iraq) than the right (immigration) and now the left again (cuts) shows that he, at a fundamental level, cannot be trusted. And, of course, he has surrounded himself with some of the nastiest and most sectarian people in our party at present :-(

Charlie Whelan?? Nuff said......

12:58 am, July 14, 2010

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anyone who thinks that anyone has got a cat in hells chance of getting back into power better take a look at Camercon on PMQs.

He's masterful. Only TB has got the talent to match him.

You guys are going down the swanee for a good decade.

10:01 am, July 14, 2010

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, Cameron is good with words. He is a PR man - what the hell do you expect FFS??

within a couple of years this government could well be the most despised in living memory. Let's see how far "Dave's" patter gets him then, eh? ;-)

2:58 pm, July 14, 2010

Blogger John Wiseman said...

I hope the left win in the NEC contest, that is oustide the slates.


7:29 pm, July 14, 2010


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