Why I am voting Jon Cruddas for deputy leader

Now that my ballot paper has arrived, I have had to make a decision on the deputy leadership. I'm going to give Jon Cruddas both my first preferences.

Before I look at the candidates, I think it makes sense to say what I think the deputy leader should do. I do not think it is about any particular policy agenda - that is for the leader and Conference – but for all the policy agendas and representing the concerns of the rank-and-file membership to the top and organising the party.

That means I can overlook the Iraq war vote (for the record, I was and am against) and specific political policies to a certain extent. I'm interested in implementing what the Labour movement feels is appropriate, rebuilding the party in terms of membership, campaigning and debate. This requires a debate on policy issues - not necessarily the fine detail but the direction and rationale of policy. I do not believe that this would lead to infighting and the like, bringing down a fourth-term Labour government. If anything, the evidence points the other way, as the debate around the deputy leadership has brought people back to the Party.

My suspicion is that Benn would advocate things I'd like on international development, Hain on racism, Northern Ireland and devolution, Harman on women's and family issues and work/life balance and Johnson on perhaps work issues and disadvantaged bits of society. While those are all worthy goals, they should not be the responsibility of the deputy leader to implement. Indeed, such a situation would be almost designed to lead to conflicts within Cabinet, with conflicts between the party-mandated deputy leader and responsible minister.

Some links I've found useful:

Jon CruddasJon Cruddas
A lot of the talk during this election has been out regenerating the party rather than any specific policy platform. This has been led by Jon, who has rather captured the debate. There is something different about Cruddas. He's not been a minister, but you can hardly call him inexperienced, having worked in Number Ten. I've heard a lot of stuff about Cruddas being left wing that I think is hooey. I think he both stands for and would achieve greater responsiveness of the leadership to the party. If his position has changed over the past few years, it is by recognising that the party membership often has good instincts - on the fourth option for housing, for instance - and that the leadership could do well to listen to them. Importantly, I think that Cruddas, not taking on a ministerial portfolio, would have the time to do the job properly.

Cruddas has, I think, captured the debate for the deputy leadership. Everyone else is talking about reconnection and re-engagement and the need to regenerate the party. I’d say that either Cruddas has, as I say, captured the debate, or that some or all of the other candidates are saying that they will give the rank and file more of a voice when they need their votes, or that they are being completely honest (which I believe is true along with point one), in which case I ask why this hasn’t been done before.

The People's Commissar of Englightenment has some good reasons to vote for Jon Cruddas. Some that come top on my list are:
  • Jon is the candidate most committed to party democracy, pledging to be the voice of the grassroots party and union members with a direct link to government.
  • Jon will refuse the office of Deputy Prime Minister, or any other Cabinet position, to concentrate on party matters.
  • Jon has pledged to rebuild the party into an effective campaigning organisation.
  • Jon wants to help revive internal democratic structures, such as the National Policy Forum by restoring the constituency link.
  • Jon wants to see the opening up of Conference, increasing the role of the grassroots.
  • Jon supports the idea of a review of Young Labour, currently in a moribund state.
  • Jon will fight for each CLP to gain £3 per voter that will fund local organisers, boosting local activity.
  • Jon realises the importance of the independence of CLPs and wishes to grant them the freedom to spend their budget how they see fit.
Harriet HarmanHarriet Harman
Well, Jon suggested that people transfer to Harriet. To be honest, I’m not sure what she’s standing for. Her website has a biography with lots of worthy achievements, but nothing (that I can see) about going forward, particularly in terms of regenerating the party.

Her principal point is polling that suggests she would be the most popular deputy leader electorally. I think that this doesn’t account for the benefits a reinvigorated membership could bring. A door knock and a cup of tea wins more votes than the particular person occupying the deputy leadership and that requires a different sort of deputy leader. I do hope she has a senior position under Brown, though.

Alan JohnsonAlan Johnson
Alan's straight answers on the Newsnight hustings impressed me. I like someone who can both answer a straight question. His answer on housing I particularly like:

Only 1 per cent of social housing is occupied by foreign nationals: they are not the cause of the housing problem - their exclusion is not a solution. We must build more social housing so we can allocate accommodation to those who need it, not just those who need it the most.

I have to be honest and say that the endorsement of The Sun does not endear Mr Johnson to me, but it doesn’t affect my impression the other way either. Mr Johnson’s website includes the following in an open letter to Labour party members:
The key role of the Deputy, however, must be subordinate to and supportive of the Leader; to carry out whatever duties the Leader sees as being essential to securing a fourth term of office.
I have to disagree. The deputy leader must have a clear vision of what they want to do that does not conflict needlessly with the leader, but that does not involve subordinating the role; quite the opposite, in fact.

Hilary BennHilary Benn
Comes across as very nice, has held the international development portfolio and has the voice and gestures of his father. Fortunately, he has none of the fractiousness. Just as a quick aside, I'd have liked to have seen him done more in terms of corporate philanthropy. While I don't doubt that he would be competent, I don't see any reason to vote for him. Nor, though, do I see any reason to vote against him, so it won't surprise me if he picks up lots of second and third preferences and comes through to win.

Mr Benn's letter to CLPs runs:
  • I want to live in a country where people show the same concern about poverty, whether in Africa or at home.
  • I want politics to place as much importance on our children and family life as we do on economic stability.
  • I want a society where we ask people to give something back, where we celebrate public servants and public services and where we all pull together to make our communities safer, cleaner and greener.
  • I want the Labour Party to do more than just redistribute wealth, I want us to redistribute power and opportunity to make society fairer.
  • And I want to put justice and working with others at the heart of a new foreign policy.
How? Vague aspirations don't do much for me.

Peter HainPeter Hain
At the beginning of the campaign (which was well before it was announced), my inclination was towards Peter Hain. While he has not single-handedly solved the Northern Ireland question, he successfully played his significant role. While I think he has captured the mood of the party about the relationship to the leadership, I have a feeling that he is 'talking left' and that the position he takes might be transitory.

Mr Hain’s manifesto is also full of good intentions but has nothing that I can see against which I could judge his performance. His manifesto runs:
making the whole NPF process far more transparent, as well tackling the perception that the NPF simply acts as ‘rubber stamp’ by allowing it to consider more alternate policy positions.
One question – how? This question comes up again and again as I read his manifesto and I’m afraid I’m not convinced.

Hazel BlearsHazel Blears
I don't think it'll come as a shock to anyone to say that I am not enamoured of Tony Blair. He has been Labour's most successful leader, winning three consecutive general elections and bringing through some fantastic policies, not least of which is the minimum wage. Hazel, although personable (I chatted to her for a bit after a meeting at LSE), is too close to Mr Blair in policy terms. As I said, I don't think this is necessarily about policy. Hazel is also close in terms of presentation. She has talked about the battle bus which is jolly, good fun for hacks and gives a nice image for the headline news. That, however, will not rebuild the party nor allow policies, relevant to people on the ground, to flow upwards. Moreover, I feel that Hazel becoming deputy leader would legitimise her as party chair, a position in which she has been less than successful. I also think her idea of a minister for manifesto delivery (read: minister without portfolio) is a bad idea. Every minister should be delivering their brief in line with the party's manifesto. The manifesto is not an exhaustive document, and so there can be both renewal and reformulation of policy in power through consultation with the Labour family or a new manifesto to stand on for a new election1.

I will be casting both my party and union (Unite/Amicus) in the following order:

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

A few final thoughts
I have had leaflets through the door from all the candidates. It would have been preferable, I think, if they could have sent them out in one envelope to all members. As I understand it, some candidates have had difficult getting easy access to some membership lists. It would also have saved paper and money.

The debate around the deputy leadership has been good. I hope that Labour can carry on debating in a civilised and responsive manner, recognising that this attracts people. It is possible to have a genuine discussion within an agreed or accepted framework.

xD.

DISCLAIMER: this post was written over three days and on four different machines. If it is incoherent, inconsistent or riddled with errors, I'd appreciate it if you could let me know.

1 - I'll come back to this in the future when I've had time to think about it, but I think a 4- or 5- year term is too long.

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