Thursday, June 07, 2007

Labour Party Leadership Hustings in Liverpool

Tonight we had the hustings for the Labour Party Leader and Deputy Leader positions.

These two posts will be voted for by individual Labour Party members and individual Trade Union members who pay the political levy. One member One vote - no block votes, thanks to John Smith and John Prescott.

It is a daunting responsibility for a Labour Party member, choosing our future leaders, because we are also choosing the country's leaders.

Gordon Brown was in the end the only nomination for Party Leader, anyone could have put their name forward, they only had to find 45 members of Parliament to support them. As it turned out 91.5% of the PLP (Parliamentary Labour Party - Labour Members of Parliament) supported him and the other 8.5% could not coalesce around any other candidate. He also received the support of hundreds of Constituency Labour Parties and Trade Unions and other affiliated organisations.

Let there be no doubt that the reason that no other candidate is standing in this election for theLeadership of our Party is because everyone who had a vote or a choice, chose him, overwhelmingly. If that is not a mandate then I dont know what is.

Tonight Gordon addressed us and answered lots of questions from this audience of North West LP members at Hope in Everton on Shaw Street. What particularly moved me was when he talked about why he had joined the Labour Party and what his motivators were. Essentially he said that he believed that the Labour Party was there for the people in need, the people in pain, the people who needed support, for the many and not the few and that we all wanted to change the world. It is why I joined the party, to defend and to fight for those who cannot easily do it for themselves, but it is an old-fashioned view that you dont get to hear all that often. Those of us who are socialists because we are christians - particularly chapel goers - will have found that this really resonated. It was reassuring to know that our future leader is there, not for the rich and the priveliged but for the whole of society and in particular those who need a strong voice at the centre of power.

We then moved on, after a break for a change of backdrop from "Gordon Brown for Britain" to a Liverpool corporate purple one about "the future", to hear from the six challengers for Deputy.

We had a series of Q&As and then each was given two minutes to say why they thought they should be leader.

They were asked what had proved a difficult question in previous hustings - Iraq was unanimously chosen. Harriet Harman said that with hindsight she would have voted differently, but then as a favourite country singer of mine once sang "Hindsight is 20:20". She said that if she had known that there were after all no weapons of mass destruction (WMD), she would not have voted for war, but of course this belies the fact that if it had been generally known that there were no WMD, there would have been no UN mandates and no decision to go to war, so that was a silly answer. That is like me saying that if I had known that my husband was a confirmed chronic alcoholic I would not have married him, QED as they say.

They were asked what questions had dominated that one might not have hitherto anticipated - social housing and affordable housing topped the poll.

I am pleased beyond all measure that this is now the biggest issue facing the politicians - not because I want it to be a problem, but because it IS a problem, I have people queuing in my surgery week after week looking for a safe, secure and warm home, and yet there is nowhere for them to live. It is vital to all our people that this comes straight to the top of the domestic agenda and I thank LP members all over the country for making sure that our Deputy Leader candidates understand this.

We all have our own personal political driver, Tony Blair said that for him it was Education (times 3), Gordon has pointed to the NHS (although he has added housing as top of the new challenges), and mine has always been housing.

I think it was Maslow who identified, in his pyramid of needs, that before we can worry about our health, education, or economic viability we have to have somewhere safe and secure and warm to live. I have been guided by that for 20 years since I first studied it. At the most basic level you cannot even dream of studying or going to work if you have nowhere to safely leave your possessions during the day and nowhere to get a good night's sleep.

They were asked what they thought the role of Deputy Leader of the Labour Party should look like. This was fascinating because they did not agree. As an HR professional I found it very surprising that there was not a job description already in place. It seemed that they were each describing the post they would want to occupy rather than one that was already agreed.

Anyway, Hazel, John and Hilary were all supporting a role that would be a link between the party and the leader whereas Alan, Peter and Harriet were supporting a cabinet role where they would be portfolio holders within the cabinet and speaking on behalf of the party therein.

I am on the side of those who say that there are already enough portfolio holders (cabinet members), what we need in this role is a campaigner, literally knocking on doors and speaking at and listening to feedback from members' meetings and meetings of the public up and down the country, and then feeding the results back to the party leader.

I am not a political historian but I have it in mind that the role of Deputy Prime Minister was invented by John Major for Michael Heseltine, which I think must mean that John Prescott was only the second DPM we have ever had. I am happy to be corrected. The point I am trying to make is that the Deputy Leader of the Labour Party is a job in itself, to deputise for the Leader and to be a conduit between the Leader and the Party. It does not have to be a position for the general public to be concerned about, it does not have to be a Deputy Prime Minister's job too, unless Gordon Brown decides to join these two jobs together, which although TB did, is by no means a dead cert for the future.

So, what I think I am saying is that while the Leader of the Labour Party will be the Prime Minister and therefore of interest to the wider public, the Deputy Leadership should be seen as an internal post that is primarily related only to those of us who pay the membership each year.

The other point I would want to make is that if we do not win a general election in the future then there will not be a cabinet to be part of, or a government to be at the centre of, we have to win the fourth term first! I think the Deputy Leader of the Labour Party should focus on winning the next term, and the one after that and so on, and not focus on how that role should link with a government term that we should never be complacent about.

I cannot recall what the other questions were about but can say that my own personal choices would have been about race relations, about crime and anti-social behaviour and about lifting the people of the whole world out of poverty, poor health, infant mortality and no free education.
So, who am I voting for? I am voting for Hazel, because she is a passionate campaigner, because she has humble roots, because she is a northerner, because she made good in her career and studying, because she is a woman, because she above all others understands that without the support of Joe Public it is all a giant irrelevance! Interestingly, she had applause after every contribution but I did not spot this with other candidates in such a clear way.

I dont know who to give my second vote to - for those who are not aware and did not receive their ballot paper today, we are using the single transferable vote method which means that you should choose your first candidate by voting 1 next to their name, then your second choice with a 2 and so on. You cannot hurt your first choice by voting for other candidates in order behind them because your second choice only comes in to play when your first choice has already been eliminated.

I wont be voting for Harriet. Hilary Benn is a man who is admired by millions, in this country and in others for his passion for the third world. Jon Cruddas gave answers that in my view were too focussed on Dagenham and not wide enough to embrace the other kinds of societies in the rest of the country, although much was to be applauded. Peter Hain has wonderful credentials, fighting apartheid and the Nazis and doing the business in Northern Ireland but then Alan Johnson also has great, yet very different credentials, having risen from a life of poverty and difficulty and lots of people I respect are backing him - like Jane K and Suzanne for instance. I think on balance that Hain has had a glorious past that has perhaps lost some of its power and passion in recent years whereas Johnson has more recently fought for what he continues to believe in. It is funny how the hardest decision has been between three and four and not the other positions.

I think I have decided now, I shall vote


The ballot paper came today and I have now made up my mind, what about you?

Photo from the hustings, me, Jane Kennedy MP, my mates Claire Wilner (of Witches of Eastwick fame) and Bora Balci (member of our sister party in Turkey and now a member of Picton LP)


JB said...

Wasn't Clement Attlee Deputy PM to Churchill?

I'm pleased decent affordable housing is top of Brown's list - I hope he will stop the council knocking down 10,000 of them in Liverpool!

Louise Baldock said...

Yep JB, you were right. I have been on the DPM website and found this.

"On a few occasions over the past 100 years, various Cabinet Ministers have held the title of Deputy Prime Minister. The first Deputy Prime Minister was Clement Attlee who held the title from 1942 to 1945.

Winston Churchill appointed Attlee during the Second World War to relieve himself of domestic matters. Other holders have included R A (Rab) Butler from 1962 to 1963, William (Lord) Whitelaw from 1979 to 1988, and Michael Heseltine from 1995 to 1997.

The responsibilities of Deputy Prime Ministers have varied over the years. Rab Butler, for example,was Minister in charge of the Central African Office and Michael Heseltine was responsible for the Cabinet Office."

It does seem though that I was right in recalling that it has only been used on occasion and not as a matter of course.

So the jury must still be out on whether GB will decide to have one.

Adele said...

1) Cruddas
2) Blears
3) Johnson
4) Benn
5) Hain
6) Harman

Kevin P said...

poor old harman seems to be bottom of most peoples lists


I voted


I only used 5 votes

JB said...

I'm not an LP member but I did see the Newsnight poll a couple of weeks back. Mr Cruddas came top and Ms Harman second. I think poor Mr Benn came last! But then that ain't the vote that matters.

Re. the DPM question, you can see why my team are reigning pub quiz champions for the 3rd week running.

Re. GB putting housing top of his agenda, I hope he will crack down on irresponsible RSLs and LAs who leave thousands of their homes empty, busy in pursuit of lucrative land deals while their waiting lists spiral up.

Anonymous said...

Hazel Blears? Lol.

Do you want your party to get thrown out at the next election.

If you have that awful woman anywhere near the electorate you certainly will.

Louise, a kind word: everybody in the UK hates Hazel Blears. She's absolutely unsufferable.

God help us.

Louise Baldock said...

It is a real shame that people have a negative view of Hazel without ever having met her or heard her speak. I am not getting at you "anonymous", you are not alone in disliking her. It is because the national media don't like some politicians (often women for some reason)and they repeat negative comments over and over again.

I know Hazel very well and I think she is a terrific politician. You probably "hate" her - rather strong I think, because someone has told you that she has a fixed grin on her face all the time. Well I dont know whether that is true, I have seen her when she is not smiling, but that is hardly at issue here is it. We are looking for a Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, we should care about more than just what they look like.

It is content that I care about, and with Hazel what I believe we get is someone who knows how to help our party win elections. She understands the nuts and bolts of campaigning, internally if you like, and how to engage with people. She was the first MP to set up policy forums for instance, talking to local people about their ideas for the way forward in different policy areas. It was Hazel who taught us that it was okay to tackle anti-social behaviour instead of being embarassed about it because it was been done by our people to our people.

When you say she is insufferable, which I genuinely think you would change your mind about if you met her, you are putting image before substance.

It happens a lot, but I do so wish it wouldn't.

The people in K&F whose lives have been changed positively for the better since the introduction of ASBOs for instance, could not care less whether she smiles all the time or tap dances down the halls of Westminster, they are just glad she took anti-social behaviour seriously.

Anonymous said...

As good as Hazel is (and I say that as someone who has the pleasure of knowing her - and it is a pleasure) we have to think outside of the North West and outside of the party as to who will help us win elections. I like hazel, she is up there in my votes, but I only need to speak to friends and colleagues around the country to realise it would not be a good electoral move for the Labour Party in general (harsh but fair). However, I fully expect to see her in any Brown cabinet - she brings many talents to the table. As Louise says, those who have seen and worked with her up close realise her outstanding abilities. Sadly, that does not win elections.