Saturday, 6 June 2015

The Weekend Read: the labour leadership race from inside the Commons - will it be same old labour?

The leadership race for Labour some argue is effectively over. There are three elements: MPs, unions, and party members - and all 3 presently support Andy Burnham.

It certainly is over for the North East, where the vast majority of the NE Labour MPs are backing Andy Burnham. This includes those who have declared, and the few coy ones who publicly have not declared. The interesting question is why? An analysis of the Labour candidates is therefore required: over the last two - three weeks in the Commons we have seen them on manoeuvres, in hushed meetings in unlikely corners, and making hustings speeches in the Commons, and it is revealing.

- Mary Creagh is unlikely to make the ballot paper, as she has limited support in the Commons. Her recent Newsnight interview was also not good / a car crash depending upon your point of view. Likewise an uber left candidate Jeremy Corbyn will not win this contest.
- Liz Kendall may make the ballot paper, but her opponents in the Labour Party have robustly described her to me as too right wing. They also assert that she is also a little lost when her script is taken away from her. Her instincts of a more central Labour Party may be right, but based on the commons she has a limited chance of winning. That may change.

- Yvette Cooper may make the final 2. But ...she is portrayed as an ice queen by her own side, sometimes even by her own supporters. Opponents also say she is lacking any fundamental beliefs, whether they are left or right, progressive or traditional labour. She may overcome this. But too many see her as the "diet coke" version of Ed Balls. I cannot see her winning. At least with my nemesis Mr Balls you got some passion, albeit it was normally misguided nonsense.
Which leaves the likely winner as Andy Burnham. He clearly has the unions tied up, as the favoured candidate of Len McCluskey, and other union barons. The party membership like him; but what has intrigued me is the support of so many labour MPs, particularly those from the North East.

To hear some of the labour MPs talk it is clear they felt that Ed Miliband was not left wing enough, and that old fashioned socialism needs a real proper go. It is clear Burnham is promising a more left wing approach to some and regretting the comments of yesteryear to others. 
Burnham now suddenly says he has changed form the unreconstructed left winger of the last 5 years. As if! He remains the same deficit denying dinosaur of the left.

The vast majority of labour MPs from the NE support him openly, or support him privately: the latter say they will support Burnham, but are hedging their bets for now for a variety of reasons - normally because they are holding out for a good job under his leadership.  For a race that was supposed to see a deep examination of where Labour went wrong this event is over after 3 weeks, and they are heading back to square one.