Is it a good thing that Diane Abbott has joined the Labour leadership race?

And who else should throw their hat in the ring?

My column in this week's New Statesman examines the Labour leadership race and says that it's time for the two Eds, Miliband Sr and Andy Burnham to "come clean" on their views. As Jon Cruddas has pointed out, do we really know what they stand for? What they believe?

I also have a lighter piece in today's Guardian G2 proclaiming my delight at the decision by Diane Abbott to put herself forward as a candidate for the Labour leadership:

Hooray for Diane Abbott! I never thought I'd write those words. I've been ultra-critical of her in recent days, dismissing Abbott as one of the unreconstructed Labour tribalists who had scuppered any prospects of a post-election deal with the Liberal Democrats and a new "rainbow coalition" of the centre left.

But how grateful I am to the MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington for entering the Labour leadership race. And to John McDonnell, the secondary-school dropout and son of a bus driver. So far the contest has resembled a City boardroom. Two Eds. Two brothers. Plus Andy Burnham. All of them white, male, fortysomething, Oxbridge graduates.

Was this the best Labour could do, 81 years after the appointment of the first woman cabinet minister, 35 years after the Conservative Party elected a female leader and 23 years after the arrival of the first four ethnic-minority MPs in parliament? Could no suitable female or non-white candidates be found among the 258-strong Parliamentary Labour Party? Perhaps the party needed to appoint itself a diversity czar.

Don't get me wrong. David Miliband, Ed Miliband, Ed Balls and Andy Burnham are all talented candidates. But I can't pretend I wasn't disappointed by the glaring lack of diversity on offer in Labour's first leadership contest for 16 years.

For the record, I didn't pick the headline ("Why I'm glad Diane Abbott has entered the race") and I'm not an Abbott supporter. Nor do I think she has any chance of actually winning.

But here is my question to all of you: are you satisfied with the current crop of Labour leadership candidates? If not, who else would you like to see throw their hat in the ring?

Mehdi Hasan is a contributing writer for the New Statesman and the co-author of Ed: The Milibands and the Making of a Labour Leader. He was the New Statesman's senior editor (politics) from 2009-12.

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Why Ukip might not be dead just yet

Nigel Farage's party might have a second act in it. 

Remember Ukip? Their former leader Nigel Farage is carving out a living as a radio shock jock and part-time film critic. The party is currently midway through a leadership election to replace Paul Nuttall, who quit his post following their disastrous showing at the general election.

They are already facing increasing financial pressure thanks to the loss of short money and, now they no longer have any MPs, their parliamentary office in Westminster, too. There may be bigger blows to come. In March 2019, their 24 MEPs will all lose their posts when Britain leaves the European Union, denying another source of funding. In May 2021, if Ukip’s disastrous showing in the general election is echoed in the Welsh Assembly, the last significant group of full-time Ukip politicians will lose their seats.

To make matters worse, the party could be badly split if Anne-Marie Waters, the founder of Sharia Watch, is elected leader, as many of the party’s MEPs have vowed to quit if she wins or is appointed deputy leader by the expected winner, Peter Whittle.

Yet when you talk to Ukip officials or politicians, they aren’t despairing, yet. 

Because paradoxically, they agree with Remainers: Theresa May’s Brexit deal will disappoint. Any deal including a "divorce bill" – which any deal will include – will fall short of May's rhetoric at the start of negotiations. "People are willing to have a little turbulence," says one senior figure about any economic fallout, "but not if you tell them you haven't. We saw that with Brown and the end of boom and bust. That'll be where the government is in March 2019."

They believe if Ukip can survive as a going concern until March 2019, then they will be well-placed for a revival. 

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics.