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. 

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The Fire Brigades Union reaffiliates to Labour - what does it mean?

Any union rejoining Labour will be welcomed by most in the party - but the impact on the party's internal politics will be smaller than you think.

The Fire Brigades Union (FBU) has voted to reaffiliate to the Labour party, in what is seen as a boost to Jeremy Corbyn. What does it mean for Labour’s internal politics?

Firstly, technically, the FBU has never affliated before as they are notionally part of the civil service - however, following the firefighters' strike in 2004, they decisively broke with Labour.

The main impact will be felt on the floor of Labour party conference. Although the FBU’s membership – at around 38,000 – is too small to have a material effect on the outcome of votes themselves, it will change the tenor of the motions put before party conference.

The FBU’s leadership is not only to the left of most unions in the Trades Union Congress (TUC), it is more inclined to bring motions relating to foreign affairs than other unions with similar politics (it is more internationalist in focus than, say, the PCS, another union that may affiliate due to Corbyn’s leadership). Motions on Israel/Palestine, the nuclear deterrent, and other issues, will find more support from FBU delegates than it has from other affiliated trade unions.

In terms of the balance of power between the affiliated unions themselves, the FBU’s re-entry into Labour politics is unlikely to be much of a gamechanger. Trade union positions, elected by trade union delegates at conference, are unlikely to be moved leftwards by the reaffiliation of the FBU. Unite, the GMB, Unison and Usdaw are all large enough to all-but-guarantee themselves a seat around the NEC. Community, a small centrist union, has already lost its place on the NEC in favour of the bakers’ union, which is more aligned to Tom Watson than Jeremy Corbyn.

Matt Wrack, the FBU’s General Secretary, will be a genuine ally to Corbyn and John McDonnell. Len McCluskey and Dave Prentis were both bounced into endorsing Corbyn by their executives and did so less than wholeheartedly. Tim Roache, the newly-elected General Secretary of the GMB, has publicly supported Corbyn but is seen as a more moderate voice at the TUC. Only Dave Ward of the Communication Workers’ Union, who lent staff and resources to both Corbyn’s campaign team and to the parliamentary staff of Corbyn and McDonnell, is truly on side.

The impact of reaffiliation may be felt more keenly in local parties. The FBU’s membership looks small in real terms compared Unite and Unison have memberships of over a million, while the GMB and Usdaw are around the half-a-million mark, but is much more impressive when you consider that there are just 48,000 firefighters in Britain. This may make them more likely to participate in internal elections than other affiliated trade unionists, just 60,000 of whom voted in the Labour leadership election in 2015. However, it is worth noting that it is statistically unlikely most firefighters are Corbynites - those that are will mostly have already joined themselves. The affiliation, while a morale boost for many in the Labour party, is unlikely to prove as significant to the direction of the party as the outcome of Unison’s general secretary election or the struggle for power at the top of Unite in 2018. 

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.