Friday, May 28, 2010

Why I hope Labour MPs nominate Diane Abbott

Following on from yesterday’s post, when thinking about the Labour leadership campaign, I think that it’s a useful exercise to work backwards to work out what you want to happen.
Firstly, I think that it’s highly unlikely that we won’t get one of the identikit candidates.

And while leadership may – in itself- be overrated - it’s a very unhealthy symptom of British politics that both the debate and the presentation of politics should be so tightly boundaried.

Aside from the monoculture, here are the things that I hate about British politics. The all have – at their root – a view that I’ve bored regulars here with for years now: That the essential pre-condition for any political and democratic renewal that we have in the UK must have – as it’s starting point - a greater degree of independence for elected representatives.

To this end, I’d always oppose...
  1. The lust for certainty and the lack of discursiveness. The savage hunt for apostates and the notion that it is, somehow ‘loyal’ to circumscribe your views in order to present a united front (a virtue from a time when politics had monopolistic gatekeepers – a passing age, I hope)
  2. The focus on personality – and the idea that elected representatives have to act as avatars modelling public cant instead of intelligent conversational human beings who act as guardians of the interests of the nation as a whole
  3. The tribalism. I’m in the Labour Party largely for the same reasons that most members are in it. Because it is full of different small groupings that place themselves in opposition to the other parties more than they place themselves in opposition to each other. Our current electoral system promotes coalitions within parties rather than between them. Change that, and the tribes would reconfigure.
And returning to the ‘diversity’ theme, if Labour does have one historic mission, it is the one that it was set up to serve. The Labour Representation Committee acted to ensure that working men could have the resources at their disposal to enter politics. We live in an age where there are demands for representation from many sectors of society that are excluded in the way that working men were in at the end of the 19th Century. On top of class, gender and ethnic origin, we can layer generational conflicts.

Now, I’m not sure that I think the country is ready yet to elect a Labour government headed by Diane Abbott. And I disagree with her on a range of fronts (though I can say that for every other candidate). But, for me, it would be immensely in Labour’s interests if Diane were to play an active role in the leadership election. As a strong challenger, she will be able to challenge the stranglehold that the NEC has upon candidate selection.

I’ve heard objections to her on the grounds that she spends too much time cosying up to Portillo on Andrew Neill’s couch, and that she sent her son to a private school.

The former is just plain stupid, and the latter is a slightly pernicious swipe at someone whose personal circumstances we can’t – and shouldn’t know.

At times, Diane is a brilliant parliamentarian and she gives better parliamentary debate than a sizeable slice of my party put together. I hope that she gets the required number of nominations because if she does, I suspect Labour members will use the opportunity to give those Milliband boys the rattle that they need before one of them gets the coronation.

You may ask 'Why Diane and not John McDonnell?' Well, I suspect that John will parade around, parroting a bunch of certainties, conducting the election as some kind of NuLab witchhunt and annoy the rest of the party sufficiently to generate a easy-to-manage exclusionary bloc against him and everything he stands for.

If your MP hasn't nominated yet - here's a list of those who haven't - please contact them and urge them to nominate for diversity?

Declaration of interest: Apart from the time I shook her hand at some Labour Party Conference in the 1990s, I've never met Diane Abbott and have never had any dealings with her of any kind.

1 comment:

Teresa said...

what should happen is that once a candidate has the 33 nominations , then nominations on that candidate should close. Sadly thats not the rule so we currently have MPs giving their nominations to the 2 Milliband brothers who are already well over the threshold. I have looked at who is left to nominate and done some maths. I sadly dont think either Dianne or John will get enough to get over threshold I believe John will be 8 short and Dianne many more than that. So I am going to give my nomination to one of the others yet to qualify as the way its going we could end up with only one family on the ballot paper.