The Independent today confirms what we told you two days ago – Hilary Benn is throwing his hat in the ring, for deputy leader at least, and has a team in the field canvassing the PLP already. The campaign is being organised by Blair’s party and union fixer, Ian McCartney, while Benn’s PPS Ashok Kumar is being despatched to canvass those MPs not thought important enough to warrant a call from McCartney himself.
Their first task is finding the necessary 44 nominations, which Benn should achieve easily enough. These could be converted in to the nominations for a leadership bid but Benn is adopting a cautious approach so far rather than risking open conflict with Brown.
As the Indy reports, it is widely thought that most of the unions are inclined towards Jon Cruddas, but Unison’s David Prentis is likely to back Alan Johnson. Benn will be hoping to get the support his own union Amicus, which has the largest affiliated membership of any union. He may also have an eye on USDAW, the last big union to still take political lines from the party leadership.
We haven’t been able to confirm this yet, but there are rumours Benn is looking to take on the Campaign Company, a private sector political consultancy, to run his wider campaign.
If Benn does stand for the deputy leadership, it will blow the race wide open, with Hain being particularly squeezed.