Campaign update – and why we need a serious woman

In the PLP section of the leadership contest, David Miliband is powering ahead. Labour Uncut is listing 30 declared PLP nominators so far. But even a rival campaign manager told us that “he’s way over that; they’re weighing them in”. His Parliamentary campaign team is led by Jim Murphy and Douglas Alexander. Murphy, who sealed his reputation with his handling, as Europe Minister, of the Lisbon Treaty ratification, is a real politician’s politician. Likeable but ruthless, serious but funny, he is abstemious but has a slightly edgy air.

With David Miliband permanently on the terrace and in the tea room schmoozing people – neither his natural environment nor his métier – his campaign will profit from Murphy’s people skills as well as his machine ability.

Ed Miliband, currently showing 15 declared endorsers, is also thought to have comfortably surpassed the 33 MPs needed to get on the ballot paper. Former Cabinet Ministers Sadiq Khan and Peter Hain are the most active on his behalf in the tea room. Strangely similar characters from quite different backgrounds and generations, both are natural organisers. Ed Miliband’s coalition, though, still looks the most inchoate. It makes the least sense. Perhaps a group that includes Stephen Pound, Helen Goodman, Emily Thornberry and David Hamilton will turn into a big tent party. Let us hope it does not prove a messy mishmash.

Sources within Ed Balls’ camp claim that they will have no problem securing 33 nominations. More dispassionate observers say that Team Balls is having to work hard to get over the line. In truth, Balls is unlikely to fall short, and will be on the ballot paper.

Burnham launched this morning, the last of the main contenders. It was a “low-key” launch in Manchester. He was not doughnutted by PLP endorsers, slightly giving the impression that he doesn’t have any. In fact, he has a reasonable smattering, certainly more than a dozen. His campaign will be led by a triumvirate: Paul Goggins, Kevin Barron and, marginally first among those equals, Gerry Sutcliffe. The popular former Sports Minister and Treasury Whip ran Alan Johnson’s lacklustre and unsuccessful 2007 deputy leadership bid. Expect to see the most regionally concentrated campaign, drawing heavily on support from the North West. PR man Stuart Bruce (of Wolfstar) will do the external communications and logistics, as he did for Johnson in 2007.

Now that Diane Abbott has declared her wish to stand, thus splitting what remains of the far left Campaign Group vote, it seems unlikely that John McDonnell will get on the ballot paper. He failed to do so in 2007, when there was only one other candidate.

If no other woman comes forward – and they probably won’t – Abbott may well get the required nominations. There is strong feeling that the contest should include a woman. It is a shame, though, that MPs will be forced to choose between having a woman in the election, which most would like to see, and having Diane Abbott in the election, which most do not want to see.

A better solution would be for Gisela Stuart to stand. She is a strong David Miliband supporter and for that reason will not welcome this suggestion. But the party of all women shortlists really should have a woman in its leadership election. Stuart has been in Parliament for longer than any of the serious contenders. She has been a Minister and an international negotiator for the UK government. In Birmingham Edgbaston – a seat Labour has no right to hold – she runs the most sophisticated and most successful campaigning operation in UK politics.

As it happens, she has all the attributes to be leader (which can’t be said of any of the current contenders). But that is not the point. She is at the very least a credible candidate. And – as a matter of principle – Labour should have a credible woman candidate on its leadership election ballot paper.

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10 Responses to “Campaign update – and why we need a serious woman”

  1. antigone says:

    And should there be a woman on the ticket? Yes of course. It’s an indictment both that none honestly wants it (other perhaps than Diane and it’s unlikely even that she does) and that despite the warm words we’ve propelled so few women into positions of responsibility and recognition. But what we can’t now do is co-erce someone into standing who won’t get the support and will simply look a patsy. We are where we are. We have fallen well short of our supposed ideals (or those held by 52% of us and to which the other 48% paid lip service). We must do better but let’s not pretend.

  2. Carole says:

    “…MPs will be forced to choose between having a woman in the election, which most would like to see, and having Diane Abbott…”

    I would just like to point out that Diane is a woman.

  3. campllawn says:

    Have to agree with Carole.
    Women like Diane, are not seen as proper ‘women’ because they don’t behave like women should.
    Where a man can be a forthright campaigner on the left – standing up for long held values, rocking the boat when required, Diane, Harriet and others are described as not credible, but as nagging harridans out of touch with reality.
    None of the mainly male journalists, bloggers or senior party people, have suggested that McDonnell should not stand as he is not credible. But Diane throws her hat into the ring and she criticised for it.
    Let me suggest for a moment that this website is run mostly by fellas? No wonder we have not come as far as we would have liked because of the indirect and underlying sexism that still exists.

  4. Editor says:

    That is not in dispute, Carole. The subclauses, the second of which you have omitted, distinguish between two types of woman.

  5. Editor says:

    We didn’t suggest that Diane shouldn’t stand. Just that a more credible woman, who would be more likely to get on the ballot paper and secure more votes, should. Nor did we adversely criticise Diane in the kind of way you describe; nor have we praised John McDonnell.

  6. Antigone says:

    For the avoidance of doubt, John McDonnell is not a credible candidate. (Or a woman)

  7. Barney says:

    Gisela Stuart? Of the Henry Jackson Society, a who’s who of neocons and liberal interventionists in other countries? For goodness’ sake, the last thing Labour needs now for a leader is a proponent of invading more countries.

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  10. A Whooty says:

    lmao you are so very wrong

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