18 March 2007

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions.

Between now and June or July, Labour nationally will have a new leader and deputy leader. In Brighton, the local constituency parties will have chosen candidates for Pavilion and Kemptown, and of course the voters in the May Elections will have decided whether the 'green' Tories will get their chance to cut services and build more car parks and whether the Scottish Nationalists can have their referendum on breaking up the UK.

If Gordon Brown becomes Labour leader and hence PM, then Labour will almost certainly lose the next general election. As Mathew Parris puts it;

"My friend, who had not been unsympathetic to Mr Brown, had until then only seen him on TV. She said he was a dreadful disappointment. In fact she was shocked by how bad he was. A forced smile, a prescripted announcement, for which this visit and these women were really just the media frame, and an apparent inability (or disinclination) to listen to or engage with what any of them were saying, answer their questions or show openness to their ideas and testimony left her feeling cheated and angry...Her response will in time spread through the electorate. Mr Brown is set to become better known, and for a politician whose appearance is confounded by the reality, the consequences of becoming better known are bleak."

The Labour Party would be daft to forget the position we are in in the polls and Brown's unpopularity. We need a radical change at the top if we are to win back support in the country. We need a credible centrist challenger to Brown. If all the possibles bottle this leadership challenge, they may never get the chance again and the Labour party could be dooming the country to another long period of Tory rule. They will not only be letting themselves down and the party down but also letting the country down. Is sacrificing the party and the poorest in this country worth a measly 2 years serving under a Brown government which would be too scared to change course?

David Miliband should definitely have a go and so too should John Reid (it is his last chance). My favoured candidate is John Denham, and I think he could still surprise people, he could gather momentum quickly as the party members got to know him. If Brown faced a serious challenge from one or more of these, then his chances would soon fade, as David Cameron's leadership bid shows, these things can change quickly and John Major shows how a new unknown face can play well with an electorate fed up with the same old.

As for the deputy election; none of the candidates really inspire that much enthusiasm, especially as the position is pretty limited anyway. It is not surprising that the Christian bloggers choose the most Christian candidates - Gordon Brown for leader and/or Hilary Benn for deputy (and these unfortunately are likely to be the ones elected). Those bloggers who think a bit, are attracted by John Cruddas, but his behind the scenes tinkering will not save the party, Hazel Blears is a truly awful irritating 'yes woman' who will do nothing, Alan Johnson is more interesting (electoral reform and minority rights) but his backing from 'the Sun' scared me a bit and he was lacklustre at conference, Peter Hain has got himself into a mess over his on/off backing of Iraq and finally Harriet Harman at least has a brain and a good track record but is gaffe prone and backs the loser Brown. I'm not going to commit until I hear all their arguments when the election starts, but to be honest I'm not sure who we elect as deputy matters that much.

In Brighton, the Tory supporting Argus comic can barely disguise its bias anymore. It never misses an opportunity to have a dig at Labour, here is their take on Nicole Murphy's announcement to run for PPC in Pavilion.

"Mrs Murphy's chances were boosted by the Labour Party's decision to ban men from standing in the seat - against the wishes of the local party".

I think the Argus is going to try to make capital out of All Women Shortlists (AWS) and AWS being 'against the local party's wishes', so I feel I need to defend this successful policy. I was at that very close vote and it was lost by 2 votes (I voted in favour).

One of the arguments used by members who wanted to block AWS, was that it was 'insulting to women'. What really is insulting to women is to say that only 9% of Labour MPs were women because women were 'not good enough' or 'don't want it enough' (it is now 28% of Labour MPs who are women because of AWS). If you believe that women are equal it is clear that the current process must be discriminatory for so few women to be selected and this gross distortion has to be addressed if you are a democrat. AWS is not ideal and it does nothing about the equally distressing under-representation of lower socio-economic groups. Only PR could address this - but that is another story.

I remember the pleasant surprise (euphoric shock even) in 2005 that Labour had held onto Hove & Portslade at the election and part of this victory has to be because Celia Barlow appealed to a wider range of the electorate and worked so hard. I do believe that a male candidate might not have been so successful. Also who is the only Brighton and Hove MP who arranges mass public meetings on the environment, is backing radical policies on public transport, world trade and international human rights and votes for reform of the House of Lords? No disrespect to David Lepper and Des Turner but it isn't them.


  1. I suspect Brown will suffer from a short honeymoon in the way that Jim Callaghan and, later, John Major did. Sweetness and light for a few months and then all hell breaks loose.

    Miliband ought to stand against Brown. If he wins, all well and good. If he doesn't, he should be able to secure his place as deputy and look to the next election or the one after. Reid can't and won't win - in the party or the country - but Denham is interesting; an untapped resource who is admired even by old Tories like me.

    Candidates for deputy a mixed bunch - Johnson the best of them.

    Like your blog.

  2. "I suspect Brown will suffer from a short honeymoon in the way that Jim Callaghan and, later, John Major did. Sweetness and light for a few months and then all hell breaks loose."

    I'm not so sure he will get any honeymoon. Unlike Callaghan and Major, there is an inevitability about Brown's takeover and the polls are already showing the more they see of Brown the less they like him.

    The reluctance to stand of senior cabinet colleagues is interesting. Has Brown warned them that they would be expelled to a lowly job? Would Brown do this. I agree with you, I see no reason why Miliband and others should not stand, even if they think they only have an outside chance of beating Brown. Personally I think that once a campaign began, members would turn against Brown and towards others like Miliband or Denham (glad you like the look of him). There is no appetite for Brown in the party - there is almost universal agreement that he hasn't got what it takes to enthuse the public.

    I also think you are right about Johnson being the best of a mixed bunch.

    "Like your blog."