Blogosphere campaign to kick-start John McDonnell’s nomination

“The party needs a strong left-wing voice and John is the obvious candidate.”

As Ed Balls prepares to announce his intention to stand in the forthcoming Labour leadership election, Sunny Hundal is doing his bit to widen the field of would-be Labour leaders still further by encouraging MPs to sign John McDonnell's nomination papers.

Nominations close a week tomorrow and any candidate that wants to enter the race needs at least 33 signatories.

McDonnell has already complained that the brief nomination period disadvantages less established candidates while benefiting well-known faces such as the former foreign secretary David Miliband. "I think it undermines the democratic process from the outset," he told the BBC News Channel.

The blogosphere might now be McDonnell's salvation. Writing on his Liberal Conspiracy blog today, Hundal says he is convinced the "party needs a strong left-wing voice and John is the obvious candidate".

Hundal lists the MPs who backed McDonnell in May 2007 prior to Tony Blair's departure. (In the end, Gordon Brown was spared a leadership contest three years ago.) He also lists other members of the Socialist Campaign Group who didn't nominate him last time around, and encourages readers to "pick one or two names, find out their office numbers, call them and politely ask whether they would be nominating John McDonnell and why it's important that they do".

 

These nominated him last time

1. Diane Abbott MP, Hackney North and Stoke Newington
2. Ronnie Campbell MP, Blyth Valley
3. Martin Caton MP, Gower
4. Michael Clapham MP, Barnsley West and Penistone
5. Katy Clark MP, North Ayrshire and Arran
6. Harry Cohen MP, Leyton and Wanstead
7. Frank Cook MP, Stockton North
8. Jeremy Corbyn MP, Islington North
9. Jim Cousins MP, Newcastle-upon-Tyne Central
10. Ann Cryer MP, Keighley
11. David Drew MP, Stroud
12. Bill Etherington MP, Sunderland North
13. Mark Fisher MP, Stoke-on-Trent Central
14. Paul Flynn MP, Newport West
15. Neil Gerrard MP, Walthamstow
16. Dr Ian Gibson MP, Norwich North
17. Nia Griffith MP, Llanelli
18. David Heyes MP, Ashton-under-Lyne
19. Kelvin Hopkins MP, Luton North
20. Lynne Jones MP, Birmingham, Selly Oak
21. Michael Meacher MP, Oldham West and Royton -- stepped down
22. Gordon Prentice MP, Pendle
23. Linda Riordan MP, Halifax -- has endorsed Ed Miliband
24. Alan Simpson MP, Nottingham South
25. Dennis Skinner MP, Bolsover
26. David Taylor MP, North West Leicestershire
27. Robert Wareing MP, Liverpool, West Derby
28. Mike Wood MP, Batley and Spen

Other members of the Socialist Campaign Group who didn't nominate him

29. David Anderson MP
30. John Cryer MP
31. David Hamilton MP -- has endorsed Ed Miliband
32. Kelvin Hopkins MP
33. Ian Lavery MP
34. Austin Mitchell MP

Jon Bernstein, former deputy editor of New Statesman, is a digital strategist and editor. He tweets @Jon_Bernstein. 

How Jim Murphy's mistake cost Labour - and helped make Ruth Davidson

Scottish Labour's former leader's great mistake was to run away from Labour's Scottish referendum, not on it.

The strange revival of Conservative Scotland? Another poll from north of the border, this time from the Times and YouGov, shows the Tories experiencing a revival in Scotland, up to 28 per cent of the vote, enough to net seven extra seats from the SNP.

Adding to the Nationalists’ misery, according to the same poll, they would lose East Dunbartonshire to the Liberal Democrats, reducing their strength in the Commons to a still-formidable 47 seats.

It could be worse than the polls suggest, however. In the elections to the Scottish Parliament last year, parties which backed a No vote in the referendum did better in the first-past-the-post seats than the polls would have suggested – thanks to tactical voting by No voters, who backed whichever party had the best chance of beating the SNP.

The strategic insight of Ruth Davidson, the Conservative leader in Scotland, was to to recast her party as the loudest defender of the Union between Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom. She has absorbed large chunks of that vote from the Liberal Democrats and Labour, but, paradoxically, at the Holyrood elections at least, the “Unionist coalition” she assembled helped those parties even though it cost the vote share.

The big thing to watch is not just where the parties of the Union make gains, but where they successfully form strong second-places against whoever the strongest pro-Union party is.

Davidson’s popularity and eye for a good photo opportunity – which came first is an interesting question – mean that the natural benefactor in most places will likely be the Tories.

But it could have been very different. The first politician to hit successfully upon the “last defender of the Union” routine was Ian Murray, the last Labour MP in Scotland, who squeezed both the  Liberal Democrat and Conservative vote in his seat of Edinburgh South.

His then-leader in Scotland, Jim Murphy, had a different idea. He fought the election in 2015 to the SNP’s left, with the slogan of “Whether you’re Yes, or No, the Tories have got to go”.  There were a couple of problems with that approach, as one  former staffer put it: “Firstly, the SNP weren’t going to put the Tories in, and everyone knew it. Secondly, no-one but us wanted to move on [from the referendum]”.

Then again under different leadership, this time under Kezia Dugdale, Scottish Labour once again fought a campaign explicitly to the left of the SNP, promising to increase taxation to blunt cuts devolved from Westminster, and an agnostic position on the referendum. Dugdale said she’d be open to voting to leave the United Kingdom if Britain left the European Union. Senior Scottish Labour figures flirted with the idea that the party might be neutral in a forthcoming election. Once again, the party tried to move on – but no-one else wanted to move on.

How different things might be if instead of running away from their referendum campaign, Jim Murphy had run towards it in 2015. 

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

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