Sunday, 27 May 2007

Deputy Leadership: The Case for Hain.

This is as much a thought-experiment as anything, to mark my joining the LLF and to perhaps stir up some debate in the comments.

Peter Hain has so far been neglected by the Labour left, and I can't see the reason for it. I have seen the strong supporters of John McDonnell pledge their support to Jon Cruddas, Harriet Harman, Hilary Benn and even Alan Johnson, so I would like to make the case for the most neglected "lefty" (by New Labour/Dep Leader contest standards) on the ballot.

First, he has something which Cruddas lacks: experience in the Cabinet and the respect amongst MPs which comes with making that position work. The personal credibility and influence which he has gained from his contribution to peace in Northern Ireland should not be underestimated. Moreover, the addition of a mandate from the Labour left and Unions would make him a force for Brown to reckon with on the left: his CV guarantees that he can't be totally ignored.

Second, he has a genuinely moral outlook: a commitment to genuine democracy at home and human rights abroad. If we are considering our nomination for Deputy Leader by virtue of what weight they have in the Cabinet for socialism and for good, I would suggest that Hain has it right. His adoption of the Alternative Vote system might jeopardise Labour's future electoral success by smashing the two-and-a-half party system, but it will energise and enfranchise the left as a whole, and it shows that he is willing to put people before party.

Thirdly, Peter Hain would genuinely be able to curb Brown's rightist tendencies in a way that no other candidate could. There is a strong statist consensus (right and left) in the Labour Party at the moment which I believe is extremely damaging to our popularity with the public. If Peter Hain could begin introducing a 'Libertarian' Socialist element to domestic policy, then the Party can finally leave behind Old Labour's unquestioning statism (sometimes at the expense of the people); leave behind New Labour's restriction of liberties and rolling-back of Old Labour's gains and begin a new movement to revitalise the grass-roots of the Labour Party.

22 comments:

Mikael said...

Thank you for joining, John.

John Angliss said...

Thank you for inviting me, Mikael.

Doctor Dunc said...

It's an interesting thought. There's quite a lot of left support for Hain (see Harry Barnes promoting him standing for the leaderships!); and he has made quite an effort to 'play to the left' in recent months. I remember in my student politics days, Hain was thought of as pretty much an out-and-out lefty.

I think there's as good a case to be made for supporting Hain as there is for Cruddas or pretty much anyone else. I really can't get excited about this contest! My personal problem with Hain was the strength of his vehement support for the war, to the extent of insisting that he'd seen terrifying evidence of WMD which, if only we'd seen, we'd all realise how important it was to attack, etc. And I think that has probably just about torn it for me and Hain. I don't want to get to a stage where 'the war' becomes the lone dividing line of decency in politics, but I think where people appear to have been dishonest about it, that's rather hard to forget.

Mikael said...

"I think there's as good a case to be made for supporting Hain as there is for Cruddas or pretty much anyone else."

Duncan,

Do you imply, by this, that there a good left-wing case for Johnson could potentially be made? If you are, I would be interested to know along which lines it could be pleaded. Of course, he is arguably the "most working-class" of the six, but appart from that... The only thing which could possibly lead me to consider the option of "backing anyone" would be the necessity (strong will on my part to stop Johnson) to stop Johnson and Blears, of course. I'm not to keen on Harman either (and I don't love the remaining two); other than that, I quite honestly couldn't care less/ distinguish between them...

Otherwise, I think you're absolutely right, this contest is about as exciting as... well, as what I don't know... I couldn't possibly think of anything less exciting than this contest!

grimupnorth said...

John, I think Hain had a lot more going for him than many realise. Sadly, I think he's out of the frame .On Iraq, he at least has not tried to "wriggle out" as he puts it.His ;leaflet is one of only 2 ( the other is Hazel Blears for God's sake) to mention socialism.Harry Brnes was right in a way.He should have stood up to Gordon. In not doing so, he's got lumped in with all the rest. And he won't make it......

Mikael said...

Tell me again, Susan!?!?!

Blears leaflet... Socialism... I can't believe it!

Man am I glad to be abroad at the moment (until August, given that this mean that I won't have to (even as much as) spoil my ballot in this non-election.

grimupnorth said...

Yes, Blears uses the s-word.

John Angliss said...

She uses it 6 times!

1) "It was not a diversion from our traditional socialism, rather it was its restatement in tune with modern times and modern society." - On Blairism.

2/3/4/5/6) "Within British socialism is a strand which derives from community action, local protest, and working class movements rooted in self-help, DIY politics and bottom-up reform. It is the socialism of Keir Hardie who said:
‘socialism is not help from the outside in the form of state help – it is the people helping themselves acting through their own organisations, regulating their own affairs.’

We need to draw on the rich tradition of co-ops and mutuals, friendly societies, craft and trade unions, women’s organisations,
Guild Socialism, and local action groups. This localist strand is today more important than ever, especially when it comes to tackling anti-social behaviour, creating social enterprises,
and local environmental action. Socialists may not have coined the environmentalist slogan ‘think global, act local’ but it fits perfectly with this strand of local socialism."

And here is Hain's:
"Fulfilling Nye Bevan’s maxim that ‘the purpose of getting power is to give it away’, we should make pluralism and local empowerment the key tenets of modern socialism."

:-O Time to write a "why is the left not supporting Blears?" piece?

el Tom said...

"human rights abroad."

i.e. Iraq.

I was backing Hain until Cruddas stepped forward. I don't think that Hain can be as trusted to deliver for the left after years in the previous cabinet.

Hain does get my no. 2 however. Some degree of limiting the rightwards bint, which he can undoubtedly perform, would be better than the none if any of the candidates who aren't Hain or Cruddas were elected...

On Hain and Blears, citing history is an excellent way to cover up ineptitude in the future.

It's also fine to do if you're on the right of the party. If a left candidate did that, they'd be in trouble, because the right would actually take it seriously.

Mikael said...

John,

"Time to write a "why is the left not supporting Blears?" piece? "

:-)

That's up to you, John. But I frankly don't think that, when looked at more in-depth, Blears "Socialist Appeal" (so to speak) lacks credibility and makes her look like hypocrite.

Tom,

Speaking of "Left-credentials" (my word, not yours, I stress), and "citing history" (your words, not mine, I stress) I do think that, indeed, Blears and Peter Hain make a better case for themselves than, say, Cruddas. Throughout the years, what has he been other than a Blairite? (After having read what I just said, do you understand why I wanted to extra careful with titles of posts concerning the DL election and Cruddas in particular :-) ).

Comradely,

Mikael

Mike Baldock said...

Mikael,
you're doing a great job with this forum, but you don't always quite get irony and sarcasm do you ;-)
Best
Mike

Mikael said...

Thank you, Mike!

Unless what you just said was intended as sarcasm (which it may well have!), I daresay I do I do, hence the " :-) " at the top! :-)

My "that's up to you, John " was also intended as sarcasm! :-) .

Very sensible post up there by the way, Mike!

Comradely,

Mikael

grimupnorth said...

Paul Flynn MP, who signed Jon Cruddas's nomination papers, has switched to Hain. Paul Flynn nominated John McDonnell. I leave you to draw your own conclusions.
After toying with the idea of Benn, am also now switching to Hain.

Mikael said...

I saw that, Grim. What reasons, if any, did he give for such a move? Anything to do with the revelations about Cruddas in the "Mail on Sunday"?

Doctor Dunc said...

I very much doubt it had anything to do with tabloid tittle-tattle. I seem to remember Paul Flynn had suggested he would support Hain earlier. I wonder whether nominations went hither and yon as part of the general leadership charge for both positions, and there might be a few examples of people not actually supporting the candidate they nominated. But I don't know that - tis just a suggestion.

Mikael said...

I hope I didn't come accross as suggesting that it did have anything to do with it... It was an (apparently poor) attempt at humour!

Doctor Dunc said...

Haha! Everyone seems to be struggling with sarcasm/humour on here at the moment, don't they!? Ah well, it'll settle down!

E10 Rifle said...

Blears' defence of "socialism" there may indeed be admirably wordy, but it contains absolutely nothing of substance or meaning.

As for Hain, his pro-war zeal still sticks too painfully in the craw (remember the nasty "shiraz-quaffing opponents" quip?), though his candicacy may have some merit.

And yeah, though I don't massively trust Cruddas, his campaign has been much more rooted in proper Labour movement issues (housing, employment rights, anti-racism) than any of the other candidates.

Curlew said...

Paul Flynn MP, who signed Jon Cruddas's nomination papers, has switched to Hain.

Can he do that, after the nominations are closed?

Mikael said...

He declared that was going to vote for Hain, which is perfectly acceptable - MPs mustn't necessarily vote for the candidate that they endorsed during the nominations process. The "nominating" and the "voting", as far the MPs are concerned, are entirely different and unrelated part of the election.

Mike Baldock said...

I'm starting to think the best way to vote in this election is simply to write John McDonnell over the ballot paper (or is the bloosy thing online only?).

A campaign to get people to deliberatly spoil their ballot paper could see more spolit ballot papers than first preferences for some of the candidates - if say we got 15-20% spoilts that would have to put the spoilts amongst the top 4 candidates!

It's just a thought, but if it took off, we'd have a useful means of delivering a strong rejection of what Brown's done to us and how the DL candidates went along with it?

Any thoughts?

Doctor Dunc said...

Mike - that was my first thought too. However, I think it's quite difficult to do a 'spoil it' campaign: however we'd spin it, it sounds really negative.

I may well spoil my ballot, but I don't think I can actively campaign for others to do so. But without the active campaign (and getting the sort of number you're referring to) it's a pretty futile gesture.

A difficult one. Just had an email from Labour Against the War which was obviously nudging us to vote Cruddas. But I really don't think I can.