Friday, 29 June 2007

Brown's first day and security scare

Two days into the new Brown administration, and we have a Cabinet of fresh, and some not so fresh, faces. I’m particularly pleased at the promotion of David Milliband and Hilary Benn to important and influential roles, namely Foreign and Environment Secretary respectively. There seems to be a clear break with the past, but retaining the best bits of Blairism. For example, one of the so-called ‘Primrose Hill set’, James Purnell, has made Culture Secretary. He’s young, sharp, and very clever. And there’s been a few interesting departmental renamings and general shifting about. Education and Skills gets chopped in half with the schools bit and the universities bit split from each other.

Jacqui Smith seems to have her work cut out though – a potentially catastrophic terrorist scare this morning in Haymarket, central London saw her chair her first meeting of the crisis committee Cobra after less than a day in the job. Talk about in at the deep end. As I write this much of the West End is cordoned off – we don’t really know what’s going to happen.

Thursday, 28 June 2007

Gordy gets the top job at last

I feel proud again to be a member of the Labour Party today.

Good luck Gordon, in everything you do to demolish David Cameron. I'll be supporting you all the way!

Farewell Tony...long live Gordon!

Tuesday, 26 June 2007

Harman it is…and the laziness of rolling news

There are few certainties in politics, and Harriet Harman’s elevation to the Deputy Leadership of the Labour Party certainly wasn't one of them. My head went into my hands on Sunday afternoon, when, no sooner had Sky News declared Alan Johnson the new incumbent, the BBC flashed something completely different across their tickertapes, announcing Harriet Harman instead. Now, I really don’t see the point in broadcasting, or suggesting, an unconfirmed story when the official result has not been announced! It bugs me somewhat that the competition between the two major news broadcasters means they have to pip each other to the post even if something is blatantly wrong!

I suspect Harman will grow on me but having witnessed her performance at four official hustings events, she just didn’t offer me anything different. Some encouraging posturing on calling for the government to apologise for Iraq (by agreeing with Jon Cruddas) seemed to play well for her, but Monday morning came and she had already found herself at the centre of a gaffe, claiming she had never wanted the government to apologise. She really needs to sort her story out, and remain consistent if she’s going to have any credibility with the Labour movement at large.

I’m glad it’s a woman too. We needed a female deputy to counter-balance Cameron’s supposed embracing of women and diversity and we have a strong idelogiocally feminist candidate to do that. I wish she’d been stronger on this in the hustings, instead of using the ‘I’m a woman and I’m from the South’ (no shit, Sherlock!) argument to constantly re-inforce her campaign. We don’t like to be patronised in the Labour Party, and we know why it is important to have gender representation. You just need to tell us why it’s important.

So, here we go, on the eve of Blair’s final departure from Downing Street we have a balanced new team in place. And hopefully some positive and interesting Cabinet appointments by the end of the week. Watch this space.

Saturday, 16 June 2007

Time to make a choice...the Labour Party deputy leadership campaign

My two ballot papers for the Labour party deputy leadership contest arrived in the post exactly a week ago. I still haven't sent them off. But, after a week more of reflection, hustings and televised debates I'm going to make the following choices.

1. Hilary Benn
2. Jon Cruddas
3. Harriet Harman
4. Alan Johnson
5. Peter Hain
6. Hazel Blears.

Benn really made an impression on me at a conference in February, and I feel swayed enough to give him my support. There's a lot of passion there, some great ideas to change the party and a real sense of optimism. He really seems to believe in politics, and the ability of the Labour party to change the world through its ideology and values. I hint a touch of Blair in the way he addresses people in his speeches, never a bad thing as far as the media are concerned.

He doesn't try to make any secret of the way he's voted in the past for example. I'm not happy with the fact he voted for the war, but at least unlike Harman, who will get my third choice, he is honest about his beliefs and doesn't try to make political capital about the situation there now.

Cruddas is doing very well, and has brought so much to the debate. As an orator, he's gained confidence in public. He voted for the war too, but he's now making welcome contributions to the housing debate and really excellent ideas on how to re-invigorate our party. He recognises that the fact the party has lost 200,000 members we've lost since 1997 is a real issue. I don't think any of the other candidates have really understood this. I'd trust Cruddas as our campaigner in chief.

Harriet Harman comes across as patronising, too middle-class and ideologically inconsistent. Supposedly courting the 'soft' left, she's also proud to have sent her children to a grant-maintained school - never the policy of this government. Irritatingly, she never quite reveals why standing as a female candidate is so important - she just takes it for granted that the general membership will default to a female deputy leader if Brown is PM. If she's really a feminist, she needs to put forward a better case as to why it's important to have men and women at the top in politics. Oh, and saying 'I'm the southern candidate' is just so ridiculous. She does however get my third preference for being an experienced Minister, who has admirably campaigned on human rights and equalities issues. She also has an excellent, well organised constituency party.

I initially thought I'd plump for Alan Johnson in this contest, but he just hasn't tried to win my vote. He came to a London Young Labour reception in February and stayed all of five minutes, barely attempting to convince the assembled yoof that this cheeky working class ex-postman who was brought up by his sister as a teenager would be someone to lead the party's activists into the next general election. I felt he had nothing to offer the youth movement of the party, but he's no. 4 on my ballot because of his Cabinet experience and the fact he comes across well in the media.

Peter Hain has nothing to contribute to the campaign apart from the fact that he was Secretary of State in Northern Ireland when power sharing was restored. He never fails to mention this in debates. Oh, and apartheid in South Africa. Don't forget that. I actually feel sorry for him, but want him nowhere near that Deputy Leader's office. I think, that despite his achievements, he'd be the wrong man for this job.

Hazel Blears is the Marmite candidate. I've met her personally, and she's lovely, but she has been far too close to the Blair regime. I just couldn't trust her to stand up to Gordon. She's got great working class credentials - 'My brother drives a Manchester bus' - but she's also quite divisive. When I was helping out Hilary Benn in ringing councillors to ask if they'd vote for him, all I got was 'anyone but Blears'.

So, there you have it, I'm off the postbox now!

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