Friday, 21 May 2010

Diane Abbott for Leader?

Let me put my cards on the table. In the Labour leadership contest I am supporting John McDonnell for the reasons outlined here. But, unlike many of the contributors to this discussion, I think Diane Abbott's surprise entry into the leadership race is a good thing.

McDonnell is politically sound and will, in the socialist future, be regarded as one of the finest Labour MPs ever to have sat. But which ever way you look at it even with the deadline for nominating candidates extended to June 9th, McDonnell will find it difficult to get the 32 other MPs necessary to get himself on the ballot paper. However, I would be very surprised if Abbott does not.

I'm a firm believer in the left taking opportunities where they find them. So forget about the less-than-consistent voting record and the private school business for a second. As someone on the soft left, and given the Labour Representation Committee's 'hard' stance toward centre-leaning figures, Abbott
is more likely to scoop up the 'we need an open contest' vote from among MPs than McDonnell. If that comes to pass the LRC and others should then campaign for her. This isn't because she brings "diversity" to the contest. It's because her candidacy allows an opening to shift debate and the party in a leftward direction, something that will be much harder to do if the competition consists solely of candidates who believe reconnecting with the working class means bashing immigrants and benefit claimants some more.

11 comments:

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

I had the honour of working for Diane briefly some time ago and she is an absolute legend, she has my vote.

Riversider said...

I've posted 10 Questions for Labour leadership candidates than most. Diane and John are better positioned than the rest to answer them, but they definitely need to be answered if Labour is ever to regain its role as a party that represents working class people: http://riversstream.blogspot.com/2010/05/10-questions-for-labour-leadership.html

Manzil said...

It's important that the Labour leadership election includes candidates from every wing of the party - and particularly the left - because it ensures that every issue will be debates, and particularly those routinely ignored because they aren't sexy enough for the Sun.

But more than that, the left wing of the Labour party needs to get behind someone who could feasibly win an election. Whatever your criticisms of her, I don't believe the case can be made that Abbott is less likely than other left-wing MPs to be a popular and effective leader. I think the opposite is true: she is a resource that has fallen in the party's lap and members should jump at the opportunity she offers us to redefine Labour's mission over the period of the Liberal-Conservative Government.

james said...

I am please Abbott is standing for the reasons you cite, Phil, but also because her personal story, the daughter of immigrants advancing because of the working class movement, is of great significance for the debate re: migration policy.

The danger is in that in following the concerns that people have about migration and welfare - rather than challenging the source of misinformation and scapegoating - Labour is digging its own grave.

Race Equality Secret Service said...

BNP (Black National Party)


The BNP (Black National Party) has been created to expedite the work of the Race Equality Secret Service (RESS).

The BNP (Black National Party) gets stronger as "STORMFRONT" gets weaker.


http://raceequalitysecretservice.blogspot.com/2010/02/bnp-black-national-party.html

SamG said...

WTF is the comment above on about?

I agree, Abbott standing is a good thing. It will still be one of the Millibands though and nothing will change. Absolutely nothing. Nada. Zilch. Nichts. Rien du tout. لا شىء

Phil said...

Those are a good set of questions, Riversider. I think that approach is far more reasonable for comrades outside Labour to take than denouncing Abbott in advance as a fake left.

James, the immigration arguments the "centre" candidates have been making are appalling. It's true that a lot of people are concerned about it - I spoke to more than few during the campaign who raised this issue - but the way Labour have not only caved in to right wing framing of immigration but have connived in it is nothing short of disgraceful.

Phil said...

Daniel, I didn't know you were a fellow Labour party bod?

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

The cruel blow of Lib Dems betrayal sent me rushing back to the first party I ever voted for back in 94.

ID said...

Quite correct to back either John McDonnell or Diane Abbott in the leadership election. Whichever of the two gets on the ballot should be supported by the genuine left. Though McDonnell is politically superior, the left have hardly any real influence on the nominations process, and the presence of either on the ballot will be an important opportunity to campaign for socialist politics.

In the very unlikely event that either of them were to win the leadership, this might make Labour a force socialists could with good conscience support in elections again.

It would certainly herald the exit of much of the overtly bourgeois elements that are currently dominant. But that is a very unlikely event. The neo-liberal right are entrenched - an electoral contest with a genuine left candidate would be an opportunity to test just how far this entrechment goes, and what its limits are.

Phil said...

Good man, Daniel. Many belated welcomes aboard.

And good points, ID. If only other comrades were as clear sighted.