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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The Brexit ministers who just realised reducing immigration is a problem for them

Turns out there's a teeny tiny hiccup with reducing immigration...

On 27 December 2015, the then-backbencher MP David Davis declared he was "voting out" in the forthcoming EU referendum. Among his reasons was the "disastrous migration crisis". 

Fast forward 14 months. Now the minister responsible for Brexit, Davis has been spotted in the Latvian capital of Riga, with a slightly different message

He admitted it was not plausible that Brits would immediately take jobs in the kind of low-paid sectors like agriculture and social care currently staffed by migrant workers. 

Immigration restrictions "will take years" to be phased in, he added. 

Davis is only the latest minister in the Brexit government to realise that immigration might be down to more than some pesky EU bureaucrats. Here's when the penny dropped for the others: 

Andrea "Seasonal Labour"  Leadsom

During the EU referendum campaign, Brexit charmer-in-chief Andrea Leadsom told The Guardian that immigration from EU countries could “overwhelm” Britain, and that her constituents complained about not hearing English spoken on the street. 

But speaking to farmers in 2017 as Environment secretary, Leadsom said she knew “how important seasonal labour from the EU is, to the everyday running of your businesses”. She said she was committed to making sure farmers “have the right people with the right skills”. 

Sajid “Bob the Builder” Javid 

The Communities secretary Sajid Javid backed the Remain campaign like his mentor George Osborne, but when he was offered a job in the Brexit government, he took it.

Javid has criticised immigrants who don’t integrate, but it seems there is one group he doesn’t have any qualms about - the construction workers who build the homes that fall under his remit.

As early as September, Javid was telling the FT he wouldn’t let any pesky UK border red tape get between him and foreign workers needed to meet his housebuilding targets.

Philip “Citizen of the World” Hammond

So if you can’t kick out builders, what about that perennially unpopular group of workers, bankers? Not so fast, says Philip Hammond.

Just three months after Brexit, he said the government would use immigration controls “in a sensible way that will facilitate the movement of highly-skilled people between financial institutions and businesses”. 

As a Chancellor who personally backed Remain, Hammond is painfully aware of the repercussions if the City decamps to the Continent. 

Greg “Brightest and Best” Clark

The Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy secretary backed Remain, and has kept his head down since winning the meaty new industrial brief. 

Nevertheless, he seems willing to weigh in on the immigration cap debate, at least on behalf of international students. Asked whether the post-study work visa pilot should continue, Clark said the government wanted to attract the brightest and best.

He continued:

"We have visa arrangements in place so that people can work in graduate jobs after that, and it is important that they should be able to do so."

Jeremy "The Doctor" Hunt 

The Health secretary kept his job in the turmoil of the summer, and used his conference speech to toe the party line with a pledge that the NHS would rely on less foreign medical staff in future.

The problem is, Hunt has alienated junior doctors by imposing an unpopular contract, and even those wannabe medics that do sign up will have to undergo half a decade of studying first.

Asked about where he plans to find NHS workers in Parliament, Hunt declared: “No one from either side of the Brexit debate has ever said there will be no immigration post-Brexit.” He also remained “confident” that the UK would be able to negotiate a deal that allowed the 127,000 EU citizens working for the NHS to stay. 

So it turns out we might need agriculture and construction workers, plus students, medics and even bankers after all. It's a good thing the government already has a Brexit plan sorted out...
 

Julia Rampen is the editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog. She was previously deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines.