Labour leadership: from the annals of history

Lest we forget what a bad leadership election campaign from the left can do, let’s cast our gaze back to 1988.

Guardian, October 3, 1988

Kinnock wins mandate to reform party: Hattersely’s triple triumph in Labour electoral college

By JOHN CARVEL, Chief Political Correspondent

Mr Neil Kinnock lasty night claimed a mandate to modernise the Labour Party, after his overwhelming defeat of Mr Tony Benn in a leadership contest showing that the Left’s hold on constituency opinion has further weakened since its heday at the turn of the decade.

Mr Kinnock got 88.6 per cent of the vote, and Mr Roy Hattersley, who fought with him on a joint ticket, scored 66.8 per cent in the contest for deputy, against 23.7 per cent for Mr John Prescott and 9.5 per cent for Mr Eric Heffer.

The Kinnock-Hattersley camp was quick to point out that the figures gave Mr Hattersely a majoirity in all three parts of the electoral college: the unions, the MPs, and the constituencies where he outpolled Mr Prescott by more than 2 to 1.

Although a full analysis of the statistics was not yet published, Mr Hattersley’s supporters claimed a sharp disparity in the results from constituencies where party members had been balloted on the issue.

They said thqt in these areas there had been nearly 90 per cent backing for Mr Hattersley, whereas in consitutencies where the decision was left to general committees, Mr Hattersley had trailed his rivals.

Although Mr Kinnock had dismissed the contest a s a potentially damaging distraction from reviving Labour’s electoral appeal, he was last night arguing that it had become a referendum which gave hima mandate for his reform of policy and organisation.

He said: ‘We want to use this great victory to secure a greater victory at the next general election.’ He congratulated those who ahd resisted the temptation to turn the contest into the ‘intorverted distractive, desctructive contest it could so easily have been’.

Conference managers have ensured that the week’s debates in Blackpool will not produce too many results to rock the boat. Resolutions on defgence and the treatment of industries privatised by the Conservatives have been composited with sufficient vagueness to avoid the possibility of any clear reverse.

Mr Kinnock lost one vote on defence at yesterday’s pre-conference meeting of his national executive, but htis appears to have been more due to faulty briefing by party officials than any deeper political reason.

The conference, with Mr Kinnock in the chair for its first sitting, accepted the ruling that nothing could be done to expel Mr Eric Hammond’s electricians’ union, the EETPU, from attendance in spite of expulsion from the TUC.

The result is that the conference seems set to put through the first stage of Labour’s policy review, coupled with changes in membership rules designed to he;pp recruitment.

Mr Kinnock’s election victory was expected, but Mr Hattersley’s result was better than expected. He got 78.35 per cent of the trades union vote, 60.36 per cent of the constituencies and 57.92 of the MPs. To have done better in the constituencies than the Parliamentary Labour Party was a surprise for him.

Mr John Prescott got 21.64 per cent of the unions, 26.15 per cent of the constituencies and 23.98 per cent of the MPs. Mr Eric Heffer got 0.02 per cent of the unions, 13.49 per cent of the constituencies and 18.1 per cent of the MPs. The surprise for Mr heffer was that he did better among the MPs than in the constituencies.

Mr John Prescott said last night that he would not stand for the deputy leadership again during this parliament. He will seek re-election to the shadow cabinet and his supporters are taking at face value an assurance by Mr Kinnock that he would not be vitimised.

Mr Prescott said his campaign had killed the myth that contests had to cause bitterness. He asserted that one effect of his candidacy was the party’s new commitment to a wider national membership and greater local participation. ‘The message is sinking in. It is a victory for our campaign.’

Mr Benn made clar that the result this time would bot be the end of struggle. At fringe meetings he warned that the prupose of the conference was to ‘repudiate the basis on which this party was founded’.



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