by Kevin Meagher
It’s not fair. That seems to be the message from Blairite veterans at how the nascent Labour leadership contest is shaping up. A seemingly co-ordinated attempt to appeal for offside is underway, with complaints about the leading candidates’ campaigning efforts and the role of the trade unions in the process.
Former health secretary, Alan Milburn, was at it on Newsnight the other day, saying that for “one or two candidates being assumed to be the font of all wisdom in this race is just not right.” He wants an open field, which is code for anyone but Andy Burnham and Yvette Cooper.
Lady Sally Morgan, Tony Blair’s former political secretary, also weighed in, claiming it’s both “arrogant and plain wrong” for there to be only two candidates in the frame.
Barry Sheerman, the Huddersfield sage, has come over all Inspector Renault and is shocked – shocked – that “Unite’s merry men” have the temerity, as an affiliated organisation for the past 100 years, to have their say in the process.
Meanwhile John Hutton, former DWP secretary, is equally sniffy about union involvement, pointing out that only a ”tiny proportion of the population are in trade unions.” (Not, though, in the Barrow shipyard he used to represent in Parliament, presumably?)
Moaning that Labour MPs – who are free to back whomsoever they wish – are currently breaking cover in greater numbers for either Yvette Cooper or Andy Burnham is like complaining that rain is wet. Indeed, for a wing of the party committed to consumer choice, it’s a strange gripe to have.
The Blairites – if, indeed, such a description still has any coherence – should perhaps have been better prepared for the possibility that Labour might have ended-up having a leadership contest in the latter half of 2015.