While Alan Johnson messes around trying to decide whether he is too good to be deputy leader, the crowded field for the second spot in the party is growing by the day.
Peter Hain threw his fake tan in the ring at TUC Congress this week, and according to eye-witnesses then spent ages speaking to such modernisers as the Cuba Solidarity Campaign. He is clearly chasing the left vote, but resigning from CND just before the battle over Trident and backing the Iraq war to the hilt are hardly stances likely to win the comrades over.
It now looks like Hain will be joined by Harriet Harman, Jack Straw and Jon Cruddas.
Harman is a liberal (with a small l…) and is likely to get overwhelming backing from Labour members in the posh bits of Islington.
Straw seems to be aiming for the Gordon’s coat-tails vote, but he lacks grassroots support. Pictures of him with Colin Powell making the case for the Iraq war at the UN, and more recently showing Condi Rice around Blackburn, are hardly going to do him any favours.
Jon Cruddas is interesting because, as the only serious candidate outside of government, he will be free to speak out more than other candidates – as he has in today’s Guardian. He is apparently yet to make a final decision about standing.
Most people understand that the leadership election is Brown’s to lose – which he almost certainly won’t.
The deputy leadership election is therefore the arena for the real debate about the future of the party. This is helpful because it takes some of the sting out of a contest that could be more fractious than it would be helpful. The deputy post is where the debate is going to be – watch this space.
UPDATE: Today’s Tribune reports that gaffe-prone former Europe Minister Denis MacShane is considering a bid for the deputy leadership.
FURTHER UPDATE: Harriet Harman has now declared.