Sunday, April 29, 2007

Labour Party Deputy Leadership Campaign - Louise declares her support for Hazel

I had a letter today from a supporter of Alan Johnson for the Deputy Leader. I have also had emails from Hilary Benn, Peter Hain and Jon Cruddas in the last week or so. Only Harriet Harman has failed to be in touch.

They all tell me that they are hard at work on the stump and understand that I might be busy campaigning too.

You betcha

Unfortunately, given that TB is likely to declare his resignation in the next fortnight, and with him John Prescott, the campaign for the Deputy Leadership has presumably had to kick off despite the distractions.

Lots of party members I know will not be checking their emails until Friday, being far too busy for such fripperies. For me, I only get by through posting in the middle of the night, sheesh.
So we wont hear their calls for support until we have heard the results of this year's local elections.

However, timetables and planning dictate that we do have to give some thought to this subject, however distracting it may be, so I am going to allow myself a bit of time to address this.

Hilary, Peter and Alan have all spoken at Labour Party dinners in Liverpool in the last six months and I understand Jon Cruddas came to do a public meeting (although I did not go). Hilary also took some time out to meet some local party members who have come from Africa and wanted to talk about the situation in their home countries, which was very much appreciated.

So we in Liverpool are being properly feted.

Hazel Blears came out campaigning with our members in Liverpool about three weeks ago (you lose all track of time during an election don't you. I sometimes have to stop in the middle of a campaign story retelling to think whether it happened today or yesterday!)

I have never had any doubt, once she finally declared her candidature, that I would be supporting her for the Deputy Leadership. In fact I was waiting and waiting for her to put herself forward and beginning to doubt it would ever happen.

Actually most of the candidates are good people and we will consider ourselves fortunate whichever we get, by and large, but there are some things about Hazel that make her special.

For one thing she is a woman and I would like to see the Labour Party embrace a woman in this post, especially as it seems there will be no women running for the leadership of the Party. I know the LP in Liverpool has made massive strides and is only a week away from being very close to parity in both its MP representation and its Labour Group of Councillors membership. However this is not the same throughout the country in the LP where women can still lag behind. We need a woman in at least one of the top two positions in the party.

For another thing she is a northerner, and that counts a lot to me, I want to deal with someone who has the same sense of place in the world as I do. Someone who understands the needs of the people who live in the north and will stand up for them. Someone who is Salford instead of Stratford, you could say.

Then of course she is a proper street-hardened campaigner, like me she loves nothing more than getting out onto the doorsteps and the markets and the school gates and talking to real people about real issues rather than being stuck in the Westminster village.

She is a long-time campaigner for things like the Respect Agenda, that we should champion ordinary working people in their fight against louts and yobs and trouble-causers (anti-social behaviour as it has become fashionable to call it).

Okay so she is not very tall and she smiles a lot, frankly I dont think that being tall or dour has all that much to offer, that we can afford to overlook someone so dynamic. And being a "smiler" myself, I just dont see why that is a problem, she is happy in her work, like me, and good luck to her for that.

She is accused of being a Blairite and on the right wing of the party. That is frankly not true. What Hazel is, is a loyal, hard-working, passionate and dedicated member of the Labour Party, just like me. She will be loyal to any leader, just like me. If you are a mad-keen football fan then you will always support your team, it wont matter who the captain is, or the manager, or where the ground is, or what colour the strip is, they will always be YOUR team, right? Hazel, like me, feels just the same about the Labour Party.

I am reminded of my old boss, Regional Director of the Labour Party, Andrew Sharp. He had served under five leaders of the Labour Party and was a loyal and passionate supporter of each. Indeed, it is our Party, always and forever and we will always wear the scarf with pride.

That doesn't mean you don't criticise or that you don't have your say in the corridoors or in the meetings, but it does mean that you are always on side because the alternative is the Tories or the LibDems, the Nationalists or any other disaster story.

When Hazel came to Liverpool, it was not to speak at a dinner, although I am sure she would do a great job, it was to knock on doors in Yew Tree and in Speke with our Labour activists. (As the attached photo will show).

She walked the streets and talked to real Liverpool residents, she might be short in stature but she is huge in confidence and passion and also detail.

I am proud to be on her side in this campaign and I call on you to join me in supporting Hazel, whether you are a woman, a northerner, a grass roots campaigner or a passionate defender of the "red" team.

Why would you want to vote for anyone else?


el Tom said...

"She will be loyal to any leader, just like me"

I don't see why that's such a good thing. Obviously you don't want people who are blatantly and consistently disloyal, or you have to question their commitment to Labour values and putting them into practice.

But by the same token, someone who is happy to take a line, whatever that line is, can just as easily be opposed to labour values and enacting them, as all lines aren't automatically Labour in a policy sense, despite the colour of a given leader's tie.

That criticism pales in significance however to what unquestioning obedience says about a person's character.

I have a really big problem with people who are fake. If you'll loyally follow any leader, what fo you believe, savefor the fact that leader is infallible?

I think the good thing about politicians like, for example, David Miliband, is that they come up with their own thoughts and ideas.

If you're happy to let the person above you do that, you're not only disenfranchising those below, but also denigrating yourself. It shows that you are widely incapable of holding your own beliefs, which in turn shows that you don't have either the brains or determination needed to think of them or stick by them (especially if your ideas change with those of who happens to become leader).

I don't think being empty or some sort of adaptable blank slate is what we should find desirable, either as human beings or party members. We should be after slates which are chock full of good ideas; that's a lot more important than them all agreeing with one big central one over every single matter, changing when it does. Ideas and beliefs don't become good or bad ideas or beliefs depending on who is saying them; and political ideas therefore do not either.

The desirability of an idea should be measured on how it applies to the world, not which individual tells you to agree with it.

As such, the desirability of a personality which is empty or self-contradictory enough to allow itself to be walked over is highly negligible.

Of course, I'm not arguing that there should be some sort of desirability implicit in finding agreement. I also think that we should prize people who are willing to compromise, and methods of organising collectively so that we can make all of our ideas as a party agree as much as possible. Collective responsibility and unity is important.

But we should also have somewhere concrete and unyielding to start from as individuals; principle and pragmatism in balance, if you like, as opposed to undirected pragmatism on the basis of whatever you're told to do. If we all had that, some of us would end up pragmatic fascists, others pragmatic liberals and conservatives... the list goes on.

Blind loyalty is the wrong balance, precisely because it is blind!

We need a brand of loyalty is sharp, aware and sees all. Leaders need to exhibit it just as well as the soldier ants. To have loyal awareness, little ants must be loyal but cautious to the kings and queens, and the kings and queens must be loyal and cautious towards their troops.

Contractual and reciprocal loyalty, not unconditional ant worship for absolutely anything leader says.

Without that, after so many years, you're likely to end up with a pretty stupid looking, self-contradictory anthill, teetering on the brink of collapse.

And you won't like or respect the other ants very much either.

Anna said...

Louise, I will be voting for Jon Cruddas as Deputy Leader but I hope Hazel is appointed Deputy Prime Minister. Teo post and two brilliant people. Our party is very lucky.

Louise Baldock said...

El Tom

I think you are right to raise all those points. Internally we have the right to ask all those questions as we choose who we individually want to represent us.

But I stand by what I said. Hazel is not fixed into only what TB says, she is like me, a loyalist who wants a Labour administration instead of any other and will do what it takes to secure one.

I dont think we fundamentally disagree. I would not want to see "Hitler" or whoever, in charge of the LP and would not want support him if he was, but I trust our members not to have chosen him in the first place.

What I am saying is that loyalty to any particular leader does not mean that you can not be loyal to a different leader, or that loyalty in itself is a bad thing. And I contrast that with those who would shift sides depending on who the leader was.

I also fight for the right for members to have their voices heard, we dont want the chiefs to run away with their own self-importance.

What I was trying to say, albeit badly, is that being a loyalist (as opposed to a Blairite) is no bad thing.

Hope that makes more sense!

PS I think David Milliband is fantastic, I cannot wait for his day to arrive, as surely it must.

Chris Paul said...

Good post El Tom. But what on earth is Hazel wearing? Not trying out another "nuts" merchandise line is she?

richie w said...

Credit to quentin letts in the mail.

Brave is the politician who campaigns under a slogan saying 'nuts', but that is what Hazel Blears has chosen to do in her bid to become deputy leader of the Labour party. The position Ms Blears covets could make her Deputy Prime Minister. It could bring her awesome responsibilities, juicy perks, make her an international name.

So how has she chosen to advance her cause? By concentrating solely on argument and substance? By presenting herself as the hardbitten voice of reason, housewife to common sense? Not exactly. In a telling sign of the infantilising of British politics, she has set up a shop on her website selling knick-knacks to promote her campaign. Our Hazel is pinning her hopes on a range of bizarre and tacky trinkets which would not disgrace a Pound Shop near Southend pier.
There's a computer mousemat with a picture of grinning Hazel on a motorbike and the slogan 'Deputy Leader of the Pack!' for a mere £6.99; 'Hazel for Deputy' badges, sold in packs of five, not unlike French letters; and let's not forget the 'Hazel for Deputy' clocks (£15.90) and coffee mugs (£9.90).

But perhaps the prize for sheer tackiness - not to mention lack of originality - should go to the T- shirts bearing the slogan 'Nuts About Hazel' (£16.80 for men, £10.30 for women - whatever happened to equality?)

The late Viscount Whitelaw, shortly before becoming deputy to Margaret Thatcher, did not make his genteel and mainly elderly supporters wear T-shirts saying 'Everyone Needs a Willie'.

When Tony Benn and Denis Healey battled it out for Labour's soul in the infamous deputy leadership election of the early 1980s, they resisted any temptation to sell monogrammed flat caps saying 'Let's Head for Denis' or sloganised tea mugs screaming 'Make it T for Tony'.

They argued the 'ishoos', as Mr Benn called them. It was one of the most important party elections ever held in Britain. Perhaps the current Labour deputy contest is less crucial.

Lord knows what Gordon Brown must make of all this. For when an adult politician sets up an internet merchandise effort selling T-shirts saying 'Nuts About Hazel', it is hard to take her seriously.

It is even harder to believe her accusations - which might otherwise deserve some consideration - that David Cameron's Conservatives are light on policy.

So who is this stop-me-and-buy-one political newcomer? Hazel Blears has been an MP only since 1997 when New Labour won office.

Most radiant of Blair's little sunbeams

She soon made a name for herself on the Labour backbenches, not only as a leather-clad motorcyclist and member of the Division Belles dancing troop, but also as the most radiant of all Tony Blair's little sunbeams.

Whenever, in those early days of the Blair government, the then Speaker of the Commons Betty Boothroyd gave Ms Blears the floor of the Chamber, we knew we were in for another bucketful of gush about how wonderful the Prime Minister and his team were.

And so it has remained, with Hazel's remorseless optimism ever accompanied by a varnished smile, brisk nods of her chin and numerous blinks per minute.

Her rise up the greasy pole has been astonishingly swift. Before we knew it, she was a Home Office minister with responsibility for the police. It did not seem to matter that her main policy measure - the merging of county constabularies - was abandoned by a department in chaotic retreat. Can do, go get 'em Hazel took one brisk look at the smoking ruins of several months' work, found some positive phrase for the occasion and swept on her chirpy way.

To some extent, maybe you have to admire the sheer impermeability of her self-confidence. Nothing seems to faze this terrifyingly upbeat woman. Her very energy could yet be an asset to an incoming prime minister.

Whether this gimcrack personalised paraphernalia being flogged on her website will be a step too far for many proud Labour members is another matter. Such stalwarts, rightly or wrongly, regard their party as a lifechanging force for the good, a movement which is concerned with poverty and social justice, not with self-promoting tat more reminiscent of a Blackpool amusement arcade.

Hazel Blears' friends will protest that she is only trying to inject a little fun into proceedings. It would certainly be true to say that Labour's deputy leadership election has, until now, been pretty dry. Can you name all the candidates even?

But it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that by using such cheap tactics, she has made her only female rival, Harriet Harman - in so many ways a dirgeful disaster - look statesmanlike. She has even made the opportunistic Peter Hain look like a figure of substance.

Or as one comment on an internet blog put it this week: 'Nuts about Hazel? Nuts to Hazel, more like.'

St Domingo said...

Fab, blog. I too am a big fan of Hazel, I see her as a great fighter for Socialism, like Hugo Chavez.