Benn leadership challenge?

Tom Watson has beaten us to the Westminster rumour mill’s full spin on Hilary Benn this week.

The Blairite die-hards seem to have concluded that they need a “next generation” torch bearer. They have dispensed with John Hutton, the shortest lived and most laughable of the mooted challengers, and are pushing Benn. A key minister, who has previously been entrusted to manage party matters by Blair, has been set to the task of canvassing the PLP for Benn.

The Daily’s Westminster sources remain unclear on whether Benn’s backers are ultimately thinking of the leadership or the deputy (or even standing in both) but Benn will be able to get the ball rolling without making a final decision on this for some time.

If he baulks at taking on Brown and goes for the consolation deputy spot instead, then that race becomes much more unpredictable. But if anything is certain, it is that Peter Hain’s orange hue will be turning white with fear at the prospect. Already losing support from the unions to Jon Cruddas, he would suddenly find himself crushed from the right by Benn. Suddenly he would be back at square one, struggling to get 44 nominations.

Benn is a likeable, if a slightly other-worldly, character and has been a reasonably competent minister at DfID. But suspicions remain that he has deliberately avoided tougher jobs and kept his views on other policy questions quiet – a strategy that can’t really last the course if he seeks to hold together an impossibly big tent through the campaign.

His backers may also be over-estimating his union support, even with the No 10 fixers on board – something which may actually hinder rather than help. As a former senior official in the old MSF, it will be a serious blow if he cannot even secure backing from Amicus.

32 Responses to Benn leadership challenge?

  1. Errr says:

    Who care what the union executivres think? This is an OMOV ballot of union members and the general secretary has one vote, just like every other levy payer.

  2. JM says:

    Cruddas, have no fear. We’re ready for someone new and Hilary Benn, adorable as he is, is just another foot soldier of the new Labour Old Guard.

  3. Benjamin says:

    Is Hilary Benn really that New Labour?

    If there is anything to this story I suspect the arch-Blairites are grabbing at straws, not because Benn is weak but because I don’t think he is a raving Blairite.

    Not only that – he’s already endorsed Brown. I really don’t think Benn is going to challenge Brown, and I don’t think he’s that keen on the Deputy job.

  4. HenryG says:

    I think the chances of Amicus backing Hilary Benn are slight. Under Ken Jackson yes, but not under Derek Simpson.

  5. Paul Linford says:

    If you know that a “key minister, ” who used to handle party matters for Blair, has been entrusted with canvassing the PLP for Benn, why don’t you tell us who it is? You’re a blogger aren’t you, not a Lobby hack?

    Similarly, if you know that Hilary Benn turned down “tougher jobs” to remain at DFID, why don’t you tell us what they are instead of this journalistic prick-teasing that you and your sort seem to indulge in.

    As Benjamin says, Benn has already endorsed Brown for leader.

  6. Will Parbury says:

    My mother and every body else in the world has endorsed Brown for leader doesn’t mean a lady can’t change her mind. Think Portillo.

  7. Benjamin says:

    Nice blog, Mr. Linford.

    At a stretch Benn may just run for Deputy. But his endorsement for Brown was swift and unequivocal and I doubt he’s going to change his mind on that.

  8. Crikey, we seem to have hit a nerve there.

    Perhaps we didn’t name names because we made it all up over a booze-filled lunch, like your average Lobby journo.😉

    Or perhaps we will reveal all shortly. It actually shouldn’t be too hard for an ex-Lobby man to work out, Paul.

    Also, we never said that we knew Benn turned down tougher jobs – we said that there were suspicions that he had, which is surely well known. It’s even on his Wikipedia entry!

  9. Benjamin says:

    Wikipedia says that he may have turned down one job – the work and pensions job – but that becomes “jobs” in your rendering.

  10. Errr – the reason people care about the union Gen Secs and Execs is firstly that they can write to their members recommending candidates, which is likely to be more influential in this election than it has been previously; and secondly because they can put organisational resources behind the candidates they endorse.

    Benjamin – Benn is certainly no Byers or Milburn, but then nor is Miliband and they were hoping to persuade him at one stage. Benn is not as left-wing as some people think – he was Blunkett’s Special Adviser through the first term and served as Prisons Minister for a while, and at DfID he has many achievements but has also been happy to use privatisation etc.

    As for him standing or not – Labour MPs are now being actively canvassed on his behalf. Presumably, his decision rests on the feedback.

  11. Adele says:

    Amicus have already come out for Brown and Crausby who chairs their group has come out 4 Cruddas so I don’t c where Benn fits.

  12. HenryG says:

    I agree Adele it seems unlikely that Benn will get support from the big unions. Perhaps he is relying on a Hain-style top-down campaign with payroll support. In his favour he has a good job which even made Claire Short popular ! I just can’t help feel he’s not going to add anything to the debate, other than a) he is more earnest than Peter Hain and b) his father is better known that Jon Cruddas’s.

  13. Andrea says:

    Paul Linford, egarding the rumours of jobs Benn turned down..I don’t think it was a mistery. According to Diane Abbott, he turned down the Work and Pension position when Blunkett resigned.
    Then Diane can always talk rubbish 😕

  14. Paul Linford says:

    According to Wikipedia: “Some commentators have speculated he was offered the [work and pensions] job but declined it.”

    In other words it is just that. Speculation. I could just as easily speculate that he was not appointed because, having lost a “true believer” in Blunkett from the Cabinet, Blair wanted to promote another one, in John Hutton. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but it does seem at least as plausible as the idea that Hilary Benn was fighting shy of being given a “tougher job.”

  15. Andrea says:

    HenryG. But if Benn runs for Leader, who will Dad Tony vote for?!

  16. fredrik says:

    A Benn as Labour (deputy) leader? Sounds a bit 80s to me.😉

  17. Paul, in that instance we were only repeating what other members of your profession have written and what people around Westminster are saying. We said suspicions, you call it speculation. Take your pick.

  18. “But if Benn runs for Leader, who will Dad Tony vote for?!”

    John McDonnell, I expect.

    That said, given that I’m considering a write-in campaign for Tony Benn anyway, it’ll make the write-in process much quicker if I only have to cross out ‘Hilary’ and write ‘Tony’ instead.

  19. Andrea says:

    bobblehat2000…I think he’s backing McDonnell at the moment (he spoke at his first campaign rally).
    I was just wondering if he could land a “personal vote” to his son in the case he was running. He seems very fond and proud of him.

  20. Nick says:

    He certainly is proud of him in a personal context, as you’d expect – he is his son after all! But I think he’s also made clear that they are rather different political animals – didn’t he even go so far as to describe him as “right-wing” in one of his diaries?

    And I’m sure Hilary would be the last person to claim he shared any of his father’s politics!

    I’m sure that he’d vote for him on pure personal loyalty though, as I think everyone would understand.

  21. Considering the Labour movement has done more than any other on issues of equality and diversity, I can’t understand why so many Labour bloggers have chosen to back ‘diamond geezer’, Jon Cruddas. Has he promised you and the rest of the lads a good night out?

    HARRIET FOR DEPUTY!

  22. Blimey! Are you saying Cruddas is a man?

    I’m definitely voting for Harman then.

  23. Gareth says:

    Yep he turned down Work and Pensions because it was a poisoned chalice! And he didn’t want to go down a more ‘Blairite’ route of reform which TB wanted a new appointee to do. At least thats what I’ve heard……..

    As for if he stands for leader??? Well I think a candidate other than Gordon (and NOT Reid) is a good idea. McDonnell won’t even get on the ballot, and I think Brown should face a challenge.

    Brown’s ‘scottishness’ os going to be played on all the time by the Tories. Plus his considerable input in home policy and Treasury involvement will be attacked more and more. You can’t get round this as much with him as leader. Never mind that ‘Blairism’ is ‘Blair-Brownism’. Hes no different, he just doesn’t slag the Labour Party off all the time like Blair.

    We don’t just need to change the captain of the ship, we need a rethink and change of direction. Only with someone not at the heart of the ‘project’, is going to do that.

    Benn for Leader!

  24. Andrea says:

    The Labour movement has done many things about equality, but that doesn’t mean they should support a woman no matter who she’s….Harriet Harman should offer something more than just being a a woman…I don’t think “A female Deputy Leader can be good..I’m a woman” campaign is enough…even if people agree that a woman should be deputy leader, why her and not someone else? She’s hardly the only woman in the party.

  25. James says:

    I actually think Benn going for leader would be a good thing for the party – but for him to go for deputy is pointless. I’d back him for the top job but not for the number two spot. If he’s just looking to climb a rung on the ladder he should stick tight. Hope he makes the right decision.

  26. Gareth says:

    I’d rather have Beckett than Harman for Deputy!

    Harman like her doppelganger Jowell is bloody hopeless!

  27. Will Parbury says:

    I have decided to back Cruddas as I think he represents the change the party needs.I go into it in a bit more depth (1300 words) on my blog as its a bit long to post in a comment section. In short Cruddas rocks, got that ok?

    http://parburypolitica.blogspot.com/2006/10/one-where-i-tell-most-powerful-people.html

  28. Adele says:

    Is Cruddas pro life?

  29. Nick says:

    I think he is on the death penalty but I don’t think he is on abortion, just judging by his limited public statements on this.

    Certain people have been saying this but have produced no evidence, which makes it look a bit like a deliberate smear to me.

  30. There’s really no evidence that Cruddas has ever been inclined to restrict or prohibit abortion, and he’s certainly never voted to do so.

    He is Catholic, but so what? So are lots of working class Labour MPs. So’s John McDonnell, I don’t think anyone’s accusing him of being a reactionary, whatever other criticisms there may be!

    He shows no signs of social conservatism on other free votes – for example, he is the only candidate with a 100% record of voting for equality on gay rights.

    Given that this claim has been punted around the place, I’m sure clarification will be forthcoming soon enough. Or you could always just ask him!

  31. Adele says:

    May well do. It was the cradle to the grave comment that raised suspicions but I agree it has probably been distorted.

  32. He’s said in an interview on the Compass youth blog today that he is pro-choice and will vote against attempts to restrict abortion.

    Think that’s pretty cut and dried!

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