On the other, I've been told that it won't become a proper contest until NTaH declares on the subject. So many votes - apparently - are riding on it, and the late night drunken phone calls from them all have to stop. So, I'm endorsing Peter Hain. For the following reasons:
1. If you bang on about representative democracy as much as I do, you should make your decision on matters such as this partly on the basis the candidate's supporters. I could explain this doctrine in more detail another time, but you'll have to take my word for it at the mo'.
Most of the people that I have any respect for are, apparently, supporting Mr Hain. These include Phil Woolas MP, Eluned Morgan MEP, Nick Palmer MP, Martin Linton MP, Wayne David MP and Roger Berry MP, along with a smattering of the more decent Trades Unionists.
All of the MPs that I've met and liked are included on that list with only one exception. And I'm sure I'd like the other ones that have nominated Mr Hain if I'd met them. But I haven't.
2. In a party that is unlikely to ever embrace any kind of strong decentralising agenda, Mr Hain offers at least a smattering of hope to the contrary. Currently, dealing with Wales and Northern Ireland, he will bring this experience to the job.
3. He's likely to be the most actively pro-EU of the candidates. That's good.
4. He's almost certainly the most able to have a civil conversation with the Lib-Dems - something that will probably need to happen the day after the next election.
5. He is probably the most reforming of the candidates - he used to be noisily pro-PR if I remember correctly. Double-plus good.
6. He's got a good trade union background.
Also, on an unsubstantiatable note, Mick Fealty told me that he's fairly sure that Hain takes Slugger O'Toole seriously. Hain takes criticisms from Slugger as seriously as he takes his newspaper critics, and when a ball is rolling on the site, it's not unknown for him to pick it up. Ministers who worry about decent blogs more than poxy stupid lobby correspondents deserve a pat on the back, in my book.
Hilary Benn would be my second choice. He lacks Mr Hain's stellar backers and I'm not sure that he has any historical attachment to any particular position. So he loses out on points one, three and five (above). And probably on point two as well. On point six, in fairness to him, he has a more recent history with The Brothers (he used to be head of research at MSF if I remember correctly). But the deputy leadership job requires some ability to speak the party's language. Hain does this and Hilary doesn't.
Hilary would make a much better PM than Gordon Brown would though, and if he decides to stand for that job, he'll get this blog's backing. And think of all the hilarious jokes that would result from having Mr Benn and Mrs Clinton in the top jobs on either side of the pond.
So: NTaH's dream ticket:
- Benn (H!!!) for leader.
- Hain for Deputy.
- Mrs C for President.