Thursday, 20 May 2010

The best of a bad bunch?

It's no secret that I'm a big fan of Jon Cruddas MP. I spent a fair amount of the election campaign in Dagenham; not just campaigning for Hope Not Hate, but also doorstepping alongside JC and the other #ninjasforCruddas

Along with many others on the left of the Labour Party, I hoped that he would stand in the leadership race. He has important things to say about the future of our party, and I hoped he would use the platform to raise the issues that no-one else would. He certainly would have done it in a way that no-one else will. Rather than harp on too much about this here, I'd encourage you to read his statement on why he's chosen not to stand, and whilst I respect his decision, it now leaves me a complete floating voter.

Which left me in a bit of a quandry. Did I want to support one white, middle-class, Oxbridge educated New Labourite man, or another one? (I was never going to support Ed Balls; despite some great work at the DCSF, I can't be convinced that he can lead us back into Downing Street. The Stilettoed Socialist has made the case for supporting him, but I don't agree with her).

Until this morning, I have to admit I was leaning towards supporting Ed Miliband, or Miniband as we've always referred to him, but in all honesty it was by process of elimination rather than actually supporting his ideology or policy proposals.

My problem was that none of them really excited me. I've only been a Labour Party member for 18 months. I resisted joining for so long because I couldn't justify being part of a party with whom I disagreed fundamentally with on so many issues (the war, civil liberties, nuclear power, higher education funding etc.), but with a General Election on the horizon, I couldn't stand by and do nothing. Now I have a part to play in shaping the future of the party and returning it to its true socialist roots. Hence me not being massively excited by the candidates who had declared thus far.

Much has been made of the fact that we couldn't find a woman to put herself forward, and whilst this has obviously been a factor in my disappointment, I just didn't think the candidates who had announced were reflective of the movement or the party that I had got involved in. Yes, there are a lot of white men in the Labour Party, but there are also lots of activists who aren't. This is the Labour Party for me; diverse and proud of it. How would we convey to the voters who see us as 'the same as all the others' that we truly are a broad and wide collective, if we can't even offer a wide range of candidates for the leadership? (and by wide ranging, I don't just mean in terms of sexuality, race and gender, but also in terms of their politics)

However, as of this morning, the race has got a lot more interesting. We have another right of the party, white, middle class man announcing his candidacy (yawn - really Burnham? Those eyelashes are convincing no-one), plus an announcement that a 'leftie' claims he can get enough nominations to stand. Whilst I support John McDonnell in much of his campaigning work, I want to get behind a candidate who could actually be leader and PM one day, and I'm sorry, but it's just not him.

Which brings me to the surprise announcement that Diane Abbott, television pundit, MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington and first black woman in the House, is planning to stand. I'm not going to support her just because she's a woman. I'm not going to support her just because she's got a high enough public profile to actually connect with the public. I'm not going to support her just because she's a straight talker.

She's not convinced me yet, but at least it means that there will actually be a debate and a contest. I'm off to Google her voting record...

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