Saturday, 20 March 2010

Parachute Over the Potteries!

I was tickled to read this piece in the FT this morning. Jim Packard writes
I’ve now heard that another Blairite figure, the historian Tristram Hunt, could soon be parachuted into Stoke Central in a sop to Mandelson. The business secretary was reportedly disappointed when Hunt lost out to John Cryer, a Unite official, in the Leyton & Wanstead selection battle.
My heart bleeds for Mandy. How dare uppity members determine who stands for Labour in their constituency. If this story is true I hope he and Tristram are braced for further disappointment. There is no way Stoke Central will select Tristram Hunt (pictured).

There's the local/parochial angle. When Jane Heggie, office worker for Rob Flello MP, is considered an 'outsider' because she's from *Stoke South* CLP, what hope has a metropolitan like Tristram got? Then there's the class thing. While sitting MP Mark Fisher is not exactly from proletarian stock, being an Old Etonian, Oxbridge graduate and owning an ancestral pile in Oxfordshire, he has always been on the soft left and was often seen out and about in the constituency.

Second, Labour - despite the increasingly crowded market for votes in Stoke Central (presently nine declarations of intent and counting) - is the front runner. Who the 200 members of the CLP select will virtually certainly be returned to parliament after the election. While Tristram is relatively glamourous, metropolitan and tipped for a ministerial career, this is completely out of kilter with the needs of the constituency. The new MP has to be totally focused on the local regeneration process and improve their accessibility, like having a drop-in centre in the middle of town instead of a pokey office above a telly repair shop in the back of beyond. They need to use their position to rejuvenate the CLP - they could, for example, employ a full time party worker and encourage local unions to
actively participate in the party. I would also like to see the new MP work with the local co-op movement to see how the latter can assist regeneration. This needs local knowledge. It's not beyond the ken of a parachutist like Tristram to pick this up, but how can they take an active interest if their head is full of ministerial concerns? Most members of Stoke Central are aware of this.

Allow me to offer Tristram and other would-be parachutists this piece of advice. Don't bother applying for Stoke Central. Your connections might see you placed on the shortlist, but ultimately you will lose out to a local. This leaves you two choices. Try and find another seat where you fancy your chances. Or do something radical like returning to your local CLP and doing the old fashioned local activism thing. If you're any good, you might get selected in a couple of elections' time when your MP steps down or carks it.


Joseph Edwards said...

I do hope that you'll be able to resist the bloody Blairites. It's something we need more of - ultimately, if socialism is to be built in and from the Labour Party, it has to come to the grassroots, and the Parliamentary tradition of parachuting has become especially toxic lately to the movement (not that we don't have a long and sad history of it).

asquith said...

I suppose there are two types of incomer. The ones who are just there for a bit & get out as soon as they can (such as a lot of the students), or who just come in for work & get out to their homes in Baldwin's Gate or Stockton Brook the instant they clock off. & then the ones who really make this city their own, who interact with their neighbours & so on. I have been gladdened to see a lot of immigrants in this group.

It's an odd thing when me & some other born & bred types will be talking about how shite the city is, then someone originally from outside will say "No, it's not so bad actually, I like living here & it's better than wherever I come from". Yet this has happened to me a remarkable number of times.

Tristram Cunt would, of course, be in the former group. But it can be hard to judge. Does Bhatti deserve to be slagged off, for example? She did make what seems to be an unfeigned declaration of support for the Coachmakers Arms. There's no law saying outsiders can't make themselves at home here. (Unless Brown has actually brought in one & no one noticed because they were sick of reporting all his legislation & regulation, eh?)

At this point in time I have thought to myself that I'll vote for just about anything with a yellow rosette on it. I am fairly positive towards Walley, but I wouldn't vote for the incumbent party after the last 13 years & I don't think anyone can ask that of me. I dislike the Shadow Cabinet too much to vote Conservative (I'm probably not as hostile to them as you are, but putting my x next to them is goin too far given what I'm watching them do) & I do like, for example, the work of MPs like Phil Willis, Evan Harris, & them on civil liberties, secularism & that. As for those of their policies I disagree with- well, Walley will only win anyway so what of it?

james said...

But you know, Hunt is not exactly a Blairite - in the sense that no-one seeking to become a PPC can espouse the Blairite agenda openly.

But still, he's been traditionally critical of New Labour's orientation towards free-market policies for a few years, to my knowledge.

A few weeks ago he was on This Week speaking about the domination of the financial sector and the need for more mutual forms of ownership in the economy. So, he would perhaps be open to the kind of activity you propose re: local co-op movement.

John said...

Now I am not a member of the LP and have no faith in the idea of some kind of Labourite renaissance which will give serious purpose to a revived social democracy. But I am a bit puzzled about the Tristram Hunt issue. I have never met him and have read nothing of his actual political beliefs. But for my money his recent biography of Friedrich Engels was the finest produced in recent decades and displayed a real understanding of the Marxian movement and its development during the lives of KM and FE. A hardline Blairite could surely not have written that.

Phil said...

I'm happy to be corrected on Hunt, but as Joe says parachuting craps over what local party democracy exists. If Hunt does make the shortlist I'll listen to what he has to say - but I remain convinced any MP who, at least in their first term, is focused on a ministry would is not what the local party or the constituency needs.

new hegemony said...

Robin Cook often cited Deutscher's biography of Trotsky as one of his favourite literary works. That didn't stop him from playing a key role in marginalising and demobilising the Labour left in the 1980s and 1990s. Some figures in the LP are happy to pay tribute to figures such as Trotsky and Engels - but on the basis that their politics were appropriate to the past when capitalism was allegedly very different to today. Hunt's biography of Engels need mean nothing in relation to how he conducts himself in parliament.

james said...

Parachuting is always an issue for parties in a parliamentary system - local parties will prefer a candidate that will be active in the constituency but the parliamentary party will need MPs willing and able to be ministers or in a shadow cabinet...

I hope you will press the shortlist on mutualism, mind.

james said...

new hegemony - point taken, but the conditions are different. namely, whereas cook was operating at a time of the rise of neoliberal ideology, we are now seeing this orthodoxy unravel.

EddM said...

Most of Hunt's stuff that I've read has been more enthusiastic about the Liberal tradition within the labour movement than the socialist - let alone revolutionary - tradition. While this doesn't necessarily make him a Blairite it should indicate at least that he won't be joining the Campaign Group or the LRC.

As for the Engels biography, I admit I didn't read it in detail, but I preferred John Green's.

Darren said...

Will you have a vote, Phil, or does the six month membership rule apply?

Phil said...

I fall foul of the six month rule, unfortunately. But I will be at the selection meeting and I will be asking a question. It'll all be blogged here.

An Inside View said...

Tristram is doind the rounds with an A-Z in one hand and a membership list in the other. Knocking on doors at 11pm desperately finding long lost friends. He's perked up his £100,000 car and hired a banger!
Lord Mandleson doesn't know stoke and he doesn't know down town stoke central either.
He loves elected Mayor's does tristram and our mayor murdering members can't wait to get their hands on him in the hustings!

pluralprogressive said...

No offence, Phil, but I thought you entered the Labour Party under no illusions.

Having "outsiders" on the short-list and, in some cases, selected as PPCs, is now all part and parcel of modern Labour politics.

Your tribalism of wanting Stoke-only candidates smacks of the kind of politics which is shouted by local Tories (Turnip Taliban, anyone?).

Fair enough, you may have an issue regarding his politics, but Tristram has been a Labour Party member longer than yourself, Phil.

Phil said...

It is a problem, but it isn't a battle that has been won by the leadership yet ... And yes, Tristram may have been a party member longer than I - but I'm not seeking office.

Anonymous said...

What type of question will you ask Phil?

An Inside View said...

Tristram may, or may not have been put onto any long list/short list by the Stoke Central Executive, we just don't know.
But a 'special selections panel' that has taken over democracy (omov)in the party put him on the longlist/shortlist, as though they speak for stoke with a nod through.

Whether Phil is right or wrong is immaterial.What is wrong, is that it is considered the usual practice that anyone should be given a preference and given their Lordships approval.
Mandleson has form in interfering in local democracy but is considered as being the 'new way of doing things'.
If Phil holds the belief that this new way goes towards administering against local democracy, then I'm sure his voice is more than welcome.

Phil said...

I'm torn between asking if panelists know what the 'Mother Town' is, or Soviet Union: state cap or degenerate workers' state?