From today’s Tribune:
Benn to run for deputy leader
Hilary Benn is planning to announce his candidature for Labour’s deputy leadership, Tribune has learned.
Last week, Ashok Kumar, Mr Benn’s parliamentary private secretary, began canvassing support for his boss among backbench MPs. It is understood that Mr Benn’s campaign manager will be former Labour Party chair Ian McCartney and the communications agency The Campaign Company will run much of the campaign.
Mr Benn, the Secretary of State for International Development, only became an MP in 1999. Before entering the House of Commons, he was head of research at white-collar union MSF (now Amicus).
Mr Benn is regarded as being on the modernising wing of the party but not sufficiently hardline to alienate middle-of-the-road backbenchers.
His candidature could damage the electoral prospects of Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain, who is seeking support from a similar constituency.
Mr Benn has been heavily criticised by the more radical sections of the international development movement over the “conditionality” policy which forced developing countries to privatise their public services in return for aid. Despite dropping the conditionality policy, DfID still “assists” developing nations with privatisation schemes.
The use of a professional organisation to run an internal Labour election campaign has alarmed many party insiders, who see it as a further example of the Americanisation of Labour’s campaigning.
Labour’s declining membership has caused some senior figures to turn their backs on traditional grassroots campaigning. Instead, they are prepared to pay private “experts” to perform tasks previously done voluntarily. Mr Benn’s office, Mr McCartney and the Campaign Company failed to return Tribune‘s calls. Mr Kumar declined to comment.