Blair backs Benn

According to Patrick Hennesey at the Sunday Telegraph, Downing Street played a “played a key strategic role” in Hilary Benn’s decision to stand for deputy.  This fits in with several pieces of the jigsaw which may yet undermine Benn’s claim to be the unity candidate.

According to the Telegraph, Downing Street has now withdrawn its support from Alan Johnson – not hard to believe if you saw how they left Johnson out in the cold over faith schools.  That means Benn will have access to the 50 or so hard core Blairite MPs – easily enough to take him over the 44 threshold.

What is just as interesting as Blair’s backing is the people involved in Benn’s campaign.  Ian McCartney as campaign manager may look good at first site but the union leaderships view him as serially untrustworthy after his years as Blair’s party fixer.   Benn’s apparent use of the Campaign Company will also raise serious questions, especially given reports that controversial ultra-Blairite David Evans is being lined up to direct the campaign.

Downing Street’s backing for Benn as the Blairite candidate leaves the right-wing section of the race seriously crowded.  While Blairite runners (Benn, Straw, Johnson and according to today’s Observer Blears as well) are fighting for that turf, Hain, Harman and Cruddas are going for the arguably larger swathe of MPs on the centre and left. 

Who ends up on the ballot is absolutely crucial to the strategies of the candidates – until the nominations are sorted out, there is all to play for.  But The Daily now feels confident enough to predict that the following will make the ballot: Benn (representing the Blairite wing), Cruddas (representing the grassroots and the unions), and Harman (backed by a mix of female and southern MPs).  At least one and maybe two of Hain, Straw and Blears will fall at the first hurdle.

25 Responses to Blair backs Benn

  1. Omar Salem says:

    Surely you mean deputy leader?

  2. A Freudian slip if ever there was. Corrected.

  3. It’s Cruddas vs. Benn then.

    That’s unless the Blears candidacy forces Harman to produce a policy beyond ‘I’m a woman and I’m really good mates with Gordon Brown’.

    Apparently at a recent meeting, one comrade had heard so much waffle from Harman about her close relationship with GB that she asked whether Harman and Brown were running on a slate.

    The reply was of course “No” but the reality is that Harman is running on a slate with Brown but he isn’t running on a slate with her.

  4. Den says:

    So you have decided Cruddas represents ‘the grassroots and unions’. On what basis do you draw that conclusion?
    I’ve got nothing against the guy – but well known amongst party members he is not. Whilst some (who) union General Secretarys may support him, thats not the same as union NECs, still less levy-paying union members.

  5. HenryG says:

    Den, I’d say Jon Cruddas’ profile is starting from a low base, but he has a number of months to raise it. Similarly, just because someone’s well known, it doesn’t mean that they’re well liked. I think a good portion of people are looking for a bit of a fresh face.

    I think since Cruddas is running for the post of Deputy Leader and not Deputy PM he’ll have more time to support the rebuilding of the party, involving the grassroots and the unions. The Compass pamphlet he co-authored says enough in it to suggest to me that he not only has the interests of the party at heart, but more importantly has some practical ideas to take things forward.

    I don’t think any one candidate can be represent the entire grassroots or the unions, since they include a diverse range of views. But what is possible is that their broad interests are considered and represente reasonably fairly. In that respect I think Cruddas represents a significant body of opinion. We’ll have to wait and see how the other candidates’ campaigns pan out, but from what I know with my own union branch Jon Cruddas’ support is not just confined to the guys at the top.

  6. Den says:

    HenryG – thanks for your thoughful response. You may be right about Cruddas, you may not. As you suggest, there are a number of months for him, and others, to inject ideas and direction into their campaign for Deputy Leader.

    I note however that the ‘Daily’ editors haven’t answered my question as to what basis he/her/they decided Cruddas represents ‘the grassroots and unions’.

    They seem to have gone all shy on us.

  7. Dennis – sorry to have not replied to your comment immediately. Replace “shy” with “at work” and you’ll have hit the nail on the head.

    We said that Cruddas is the candidate of grassroots and the unions because we think that’s what he is. If you want independent analysis click here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/politics – The Daily doesn’t do objective.

    Having said that, we felt confident predicting that he would be the candidate with the backing of these sections of the party based on the following: the fact that he is talked up as the union candidate by all of the papers; our conversations with people we feel are representative of local trade union structures; the reaction of party members at the events he has spoken at that we have attended; and because of the policy platform he has put forward.

    So, in answer to your question, yes we have decided that we think Jon Cruddas represents the grassroots and union members. You don’t have to like that opinion you know….

  8. Den says:

    Thanks for your response.

    It’s not a case of ‘like that opinion’ – more a case of wanting to know how you arrived at it.

    So union General Secretary’s employ press officers who talk to the newspapers who print articles which influence how you feel about Cruddas’ chances.

    So you talk to people who you feel are respresentative of local trade union structures and see the reaction of party members at events he has spoken at – pray tell us how many tu people/party members meetings you attended were outside of the South East?

    I’m not having a go at Mr Cruddas – merely questioning just how widespread you have spread your net in forming your statement that he represented the grassroots and trade unions.

  9. HenryG says:

    Den, just so you know I’m not in the Westminster bubble – I live and work in the North East. Jon certainly has support up here – which is quite impressive for a Londoner. I think what partially explains this is that he’s talking about not neglecting traditional labour-supporting constituencies. The context here is that of all the MPs in the North East, all but 2 are Labour, so this is something that definately chimes up here.

    Take a practical example, at my last GC meeting the thing got people most riled about recent events was not Iraq, not global warming, but that the Prime Minister had apparently dismissed the concept of a North-South divide. People definately feel negelected by the party in the North East and Jon has something to say to them. I don’t know what level of support he will eventually achieve here, but he will certainly get a good hearing and a fair bit of support – particularly if he says something interesting on manufacturing at some point.

  10. Well there’s pretty strong support among the people I’ve spoken to in my CLP in East London. My day job is very heavily trade union based, and I’ve found a a large degree of support there. I guess there just isn’t much support for him among some former Westminster researchers, Den.

  11. Den says:

    HenryG – again thanks for your comment.

    editorinchief – first, I note you do not answer my question as to your investigations outside the South East.
    second, I wouldn’t presume to comment on the support for him ‘among former Westminster researchers’ – I don’t know any.

    My point about your original post – you lacked evidence but you presumed to speak for the whole of Labour’s ‘grassroots’ and all the trade unions. I never questioned that there is support for John Cruddas, just that all the ‘grassroots’ and trade unions did so.
    Seems I touched a nerve with the editors.

  12. HenryG says:

    Den, who do think you’ll end up backing?

  13. Den says:

    HenryG – open question at the moment.
    Particularly given we seem to have more candidates yet to declare, and a number of months for them to do so.

  14. HenryG says:

    Soon there’ll be enough candidates for an 11-aside football team.

  15. Den says:

    We could perhaps enter all the PLP, save the waiting.

  16. HenryG says:

    Everyone but Charles Clarke

  17. Den says:

    Now Now – thats discrimination!

  18. Nick says:

    To be fair, I don’t think the piece claimed that “all” the grassroots and unions would back Cruddas. Clearly that would be ridiculous. They just said that he would draw sufficient support from those quarters to get on the ballot paper, which is what the above article was discussing.

    As for the profusion of candidates, there is a limit to the number who can realistically get on the ballot, but that doesn’t seem to be discouraging some people at this stage!

  19. Why do you think you touched a nerve Den? We have just tried to answer your questions…

  20. Den says:

    Nick – the piece says “Cruddas (representing the grassroots and the unions)”. It didn’t say he would “draw sufficient support”, as you say, it said “representing”.
    I simply asked on what basis they said that.

    It turns out that their statement is based on conversations they had, meeting(s?) they went to – fine. I can understand that they may well feel from them that there is support for John Cruddas, but to then turn that into him “represenbting the grassroots and the unions” isn’t really on. Unless they are Leninists – ‘the vangaurd party ‘represents’ the advanced working class, who represent the whole working class, who represent the people’ sort of thing. And I don’t really think they do mean that.

    politicalcorrespondent – if I didn’t touch a nerve why did you decline to answer a straight question about attendance at meetings outside the South East?
    HenryG provided some useful information to my question about support outside the South East, but you dodged it.
    And why bring up “former Westminster researchers?” – I still don’t get it.

  21. Nick says:

    The piece says that they “predict the following will make the ballot” and then lists them and where their core support will come from in order to do so. It seemed pretty clear to me.

    As to “representing the grassroots and unions” that seemed to me to indicate firstly that his policies were aimed at standing up for grassroots and union representation within the party; secondly that his stance would appeal to them and that his core vote would come from those quarters for that reason; thirdly that would be what swung sufficient support behind him to get on the ballot, while Benn and Harman could count on sufficient support to do so from elsewhere.

    The whole paragraph was basically about who was going to make it in to the race, there was no suggestion that anyone was going to get every union and member vote, as that would obviously be ridiculous.

    You did have a slightly hostile tone, perhaps unintentionally.

  22. Nick, I think that Den has had a very hostile tone from the start.

    While the other cabinet-based candidates will rely on their ministerial profiles and their coalitions of support within the government and labour party machinery, Cruddas has embarked on a campaign that relies on re-engaging the party with the leadership. There is no central party machine behind Jon Cruddas, which is not true of Benn, Harman, or Hain. He appears to be building a different campaign structure, which is far more reliant on grassroots members, which I think is very healthy for the party and for democracy more genereally.

    Den, I think you’re stepping precariously upon the line between debating and trolling. You have accused the daily’s writers of being “shy” of answering your questions. You accused me of not answering your question about meetings out of the South East, when you asked it of another of the Daily’s contributors.

    As to my “former Westminster researcher” comment, the email you registered indicates you are the husband and former researcher of a Blairite minister. I could be wrong, but either way, if you look in the comments policy, you’ll see that there’s a one warning system for trolling. Commenting that I’ve gone “shy”, when I’ve got better things to do than reply to your post are trolling. This is your warning. You won’t get another.

  23. Den says:

    editorinchief – my post (10.36) was addressed to you when I noted you had not answered my question. And you still haven’t.
    You are right that my post (1.11) was to politicalcorrespondent, and that was my mistake.
    Re “former Westminster researcher” – why make that comment to me, why should this matter to the content of what I say, or what anyone else says for that matter?
    And you made assumptions about who I might support based upon nothing at all.
    “Blairite” Minister – well Mr Cruddas was a Blairite fixer at No 10 before becoming an MP.
    I don’t see how I can be accussed of ‘trolling’ when I simply asked questions of your original post. My responses to HenryG, who I don’t know, have been reasonable and hardly hostile.

  24. Den, your 5.21pm comment on not having been answered was trolling.

    I also told you that I speak to people in my CLP and that my job brings me into contact with many trade unionists from all over the country. I’ve discussed Jon’s candidacy with several of them. Many seem very supportive.

    Finally, I haven’t said who I think you support. I do think that your apparent background is significant to your hostility towards one of the defining features of Jon’s campaign though.

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