Labour leadership: runners and riders

Diane Abbott

Diane Abbott

Constituency: Hackney North and Stoke Newington

Age: 56

Background: Diane Abbott was elected MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington in 1987 and has served the constituency ever since. She was the first black woman to be elected to the House of Commons, and remained the only black female MP for ten years.

Before beginning her political career at Westminster City Council, she worked as a researcher in television. She now appears as a regular pundit on the BBC politics show This Week along with the former Conservative MP Michael Portillo, with whom she has been friends since schooldays.

Abbott is a notable campaigner on issues of race and education, and gave an award-winning speech in defence of civil liberties during the debate on the Counterterrorism Act 2008. She voted against the Iraq war, and is generally considered to stand to the left of New Labour.

She has one son from her marriage to the architect Richard Thompson (they divorced in 1993). The former Conservative MP Jonathan Aitken is her son's godfather. Aitken was her voting "pair" in the Commons for several years.

Notable supporters: One official nomination so far -- David Lammy.

Declared: 20 May 2010 on BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

Soundbite: "Labour needs the broadest possible contest. We can't go forward with a leadership debate where there is no woman."

More on YourDemocracy

Read more about Diane Abbott's leadership campaign from the New Statesman writers Alice Miles, James Macintyre and Mehdi Hasan.

 

Ed Balls

Ed Balls

Constituency: Morley and Outwood

Age: 43

Background: Ed Balls has been an MP since the 2005 general election. He was educated at Oxford and Harvard and worked for the Financial Times before his appointment as economic adviser to the then shadow chancellor, Gordon Brown, in 1994.

Balls has since worked as chief economic adviser to the Treasury and was promoted to minister for children, schools and families when Gordon Brown became prime minister in 2007. Widely seen as Brown's right-hand man, he was tipped for chancellor in the cabinet reshuffle of May 2009 before Brown chose to shore up the incumbent, Alistair Darling.

Among his policies implemented while in the cabinet are the scrapping of Sats for 14-year-olds and regulation of parents who home-school their children. He is married to Yvette Cooper, a fellow minister and MP for the neighbouring constituency of Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford. Together they were subject to allegations of "house-flipping" during the MPs' expenses scandal. They have three children.

Notable supporters: Officially nominated with 33 nominations, including Kevin Brennan and Vernan Coaker. Other supporters include Kerry McCarthy, Diana Johnson, Khalid Mahmood and Eric Joyce.

Declared: 19 May 2010 at a community centre in Gedling, Nottinghamshire.

Soundbite: "I think it's really important we don't just talk to ourselves. We've got to hear what the country's got to say."

More on YourDemocracy

Read more about Ed Balls's leadership campaign from Mehdi Hasan.

 

Andy Burnham

Andy Burnham

Constituency: Leigh

Age: 40

Campaign website: andy4leader.com

Background: Andy Burnham has served as the MP for Leigh since 2001. Born in Liverpool, he joined the Labour Party aged 14 during the miners' strike, before going on to study English at Cambridge. He worked in a number of roles for the Labour Party (including as a researcher for Tessa Jowell during the 1997 election) and is a member of the Transport and General Workers' Union. He has previously been associated with the Blairite wing of the party.

When Gordon Brown became prime minister in 2007, Burnham was elevated from junior ministerial ranks and held a number of cabinet roles, including chief secretary to the Treasury, secretary of state for culture, media and sport, and secretary of state for health.

He was exposed during the MPs' expenses scandal as having been engaged in several long-running disputes with the Fees Office over claims for a flat he was refurbishing. At one point, he wrote that "I might be in line for a divorce!" if he was not reimbursed within days for another claim. He is married with one son and two daughters, and is a keen cricket player and lifelong supporter of Everton FC.

Notable supporters: 17 official nominations so far, including Hazel Blears, David Blunkett and Gerry Sutcliffe.

Declared: 20 May 2010 at People's History Museum in Manchester.

Soundbite: "People from all backgrounds playing a part in reshaping the People's Party for a new century."

More on YourDemocracy

Read more about Andy Burnham's campaign from Mehdi Hasan.

 

Ed Miliband

Ed Miliband

Constituency: Doncaster North

Age: 40

Campaign website: edmiliband.org

Background: Ed Miliband was first elected as MP for Doncaster North in 2005. Born in London, he is the son of the late Marxist political scientist Ralph Miliband. He attended Haverstock Comprehensive School before reading PPE at Corpus Christi College, Oxford, going on to gain a Master's in economics at the LSE.

As a teenager, Miliband worked as an intern for Tony Benn, before joining the Labour Party as a researcher and speechwriter for Harriet Harman in 1993. He subsequently became an adviser to Gordon Brown before his election to the Commons in 2005. He served as minister for the Cabinet Office and chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster from 2007, before being appointed secretary of state for energy and climate change in the cabinet reshuffle of October 2008.

He and his brother, David Miliband, are the first brothers to serve in the same cabinet since the Stanley brothers in 1938. He lives with his partner and their son in north London.

Notable supporters: Officially nominated with 45 nominations, including Hilary Benn, Frank Dobson, Sadiq Kahn, Emily Thornberry, Peter Hain and Chuka Umunna. Other supporters include Paul Murphy and Neil Kinnock.

Declared: 15 May 2010 in a keynote speech to the Fabian Society.

Soundbite: "I have empathy to unite Labour."

More on YourDemocracy

Read more about Ed Miliband's campaign from James Macintyre, George Eaton and Samira Shackle.

 

David Miliband

David Miliband

Constituency: South Shields

Age: 44

Campaign website: davidmiliband.net

Background: David Miliband was first elected as MP for South Shields in 2001. Born in London, he is the son of the late Marxist theoretician Ralph Miliband. He attended Haverstock Comprehensive School before reading PPE at Corpus Christi College, Oxford, before going on to get a Master's at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

After working in the voluntary sector and for the Institute for Public Policy Research, he was appointed Tony Blair's head of policy, and after Labour's victory in the 1997 general election became head of the prime minister's Policy Unit. Following his election to the Commons in 2001, he held a string of ministerial posts, including Cabinet Office minister and secretary of state for environment, food and rural affairs. After Gordon Brown became prime minister in 2007, he was made foreign secretary. He and his younger brother, Ed, were the first brothers to hold cabinet rank simultaneously since the Stanley brothers in 1938.

He is married to Louise Shackleton, a violinist in the London Symphony Orchestra, and they have adopted two sons from the US.

Notable supporters: Officially nominated with 54 nominations, including Alan Johnson, Douglas Alexander, Caroline Flint, Willie Bain and Tom Harris

Declared: 12 May 2010, outside the House of Commons on Labour's first full day out of office, flanked by 15 MPs who support him.

Soundbite: "New Labour isn't new any more. What I'm interested in is Next Labour."

More on YourDemocracy

Read more about David Miliband's campaign by James Macintyre: The end of "New Labour", Miliband the feminist and Miliband brothers will never attack.

 

John McDonnell

John McDonnell

Constituency: Hayes and Harlington

Age: 58

Background: John McDonnell was first elected as an MP in 1997. He left school at the age of 17 and held a string of unskilled jobs. He then studied for A-levels at night school before attending Brunel University. After gaining his Master's from Birkbeck he became a researcher and official with the National Union of Mineworkers and the Trades Union Congress.

He was elected to the Greater London Council in 1981. Following the abolition of the GLC, McDonnell was employed as head of the policy unit at Camden Council. He first fought his home-town seat of Hayes and Harlington in 1992, but lost by 53 votes. During the campaign, he was sued for libel by his Conservative opponent, Terry Dicks. The case was settled and the £55,000 damages and legal costs were funded through left-wing campaigning groups.

Since his election to the Commons, he has been a leading member of a number of all-party groups within parliament, including groups representing individual trade unions such as the RMT and the Fire Brigades Union. He rebelled against the government on several controversial votes, including the Iraq war, top-up fees and anti-terror laws.

Notable supporters: Five official nominations so far, including Frank Field and Jeremy Corbyn. Bob Crow, the RMT general secretary, Sunny Hundal, founder of Liberal Conspiracy, and Neil Clark have also declared their support.

Declared: 19 May 2010 in a speech to the Public and Commercial Services Union.

Soundbite: Leadership contest "stitched up from the start".

More on YourDemocracy

Read more about John McDonnell's campaign by Jon Bernstein.

 

Caroline Crampton is assistant editor of the New Statesman.

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David Osland: “Corbyn is actually Labour’s only chance”

The veteran Labour activist on the release of his new pamphlet, How to Select or Reselect Your MP, which lays out the current Labour party rules for reselecting an MP.

Veteran left-wing Labour activist David Osland, a member of the national committee of the Labour Representation Committee and a former news editor of left magazine Tribune, has written a pamphlet intended for Labour members, explaining how the process of selecting Labour MPs works.

Published by Spokesman Books next week (advance copies are available at Nottingham’s Five Leaves bookshop), the short guide, entitled “How to Select or Reselect Your MP”, is entertaining and well-written, and its introduction, which goes into reasoning for selecting a new MP and some strategy, as well as its historical appendix, make it interesting reading even for those who are not members of the Labour party. Although I am a constituency Labour party secretary (writing here in an expressly personal capacity), I am still learning the Party’s complex rulebook; I passed this new guide to a local rules-boffin member, who is an avowed Owen Smith supporter, to evaluate whether its description of procedures is accurate. “It’s actually quite a useful pamphlet,” he said, although he had a few minor quibbles.

Osland, who calls himself a “strong, but not uncritical” Corbyn supporter, carefully admonishes readers not to embark on a campaign of mass deselections, but to get involved and active in their local branches, and to think carefully about Labour’s election fortunes; safe seats might be better candidates for a reselection campaign than Labour marginals. After a weak performance by Owen Smith in last night’s Glasgow debate and a call for Jeremy Corbyn to toughen up against opponents by ex Norwich MP Ian Gibson, an old ally, this pamphlet – named after a 1981 work by ex-Tribune editor Chris Mullin, who would later go on to be a junior minister under Blai – seems incredibly timely.

I spoke to Osland on the telephone yesterday.

Why did you decide to put this pamphlet together now?

I think it’s certainly an idea that’s circulating in the Labour left, after the experience with Corbyn as leader, and the reaction of the right. It’s a debate that people have hinted at; people like Rhea Wolfson have said that we need to be having a conversation about it, and I’d like to kickstart that conversation here.

For me personally it’s been a lifelong fascination – I was politically formed in the early Eighties, when mandatory reselection was Bennite orthodoxy and I’ve never personally altered my belief in that. I accept that the situation has changed, so what the Labour left is calling for at the moment, so I see this as a sensible contribution to the debate.

I wonder why selection and reselection are such an important focus? One could ask, isn’t it better to meet with sitting MPs and see if one can persuade them?

I’m not calling for the “deselect this person, deselect that person” rhetoric that you sometimes see on Twitter; you shouldn’t deselect an MP purely because they disagree with Corbyn, in a fair-minded way, but it’s fair to ask what are guys who are found to be be beating their wives or crossing picket lines doing sitting as our MPs? Where Labour MPs publicly have threatened to leave the party, as some have been doing, perhaps they don’t value their Labour involvement.

So to you it’s very much not a broad tool, but a tool to be used a specific way, such as when an MP has engaged in misconduct?

I think you do have to take it case by case. It would be silly to deselect the lot, as some people argue.

In terms of bringing the party to the left, or reforming party democracy, what role do you think reselection plays?

It’s a basic matter of accountability, isn’t it? People are standing as Labour candidates – they should have the confidence and backing of their constituency parties.

Do you think what it means to be a Labour member has changed since Corbyn?

Of course the Labour party has changed in the past year, as anyone who was around in the Blair, Brown, Miliband era will tell you. It’s a completely transformed party.

Will there be a strong reaction to the release of this pamphlet from Corbyn’s opponents?

Because the main aim is to set out the rules as they stand, I don’t see how there can be – if you want to use the rules, this is how to go about it. I explicitly spelled out that it’s a level playing field – if your Corbyn supporting MP doesn’t meet the expectations of the constituency party, then she or he is just as subject to a challenge.

What do you think of the new spate of suspensions and exclusions of some people who have just joined the party, and of other people, including Ronnie Draper, the General Secretary of the Bakers’ Union, who have been around for many years?

It’s clear that the Labour party machinery is playing hardball in this election, right from the start, with the freeze date and in the way they set up the registered supporters scheme, with the £25 buy in – they’re doing everything they can to influence this election unfairly. Whether they will succeed is an open question – they will if they can get away with it.

I’ve been seeing comments on social media from people who seem quite disheartened on the Corbyn side, who feel that there’s a chance that Smith might win through a war of attrition.

Looks like a Corbyn win to me, but the gerrymandering is so extensive that a Smith win isn’t ruled out.

You’ve been in the party for quite a few years, do you think there are echoes of past events, like the push for Bennite candidates and the takeover from Foot by Kinnock?

I was around last time – it was dirty and nasty at times. Despite the narrative being put out by the Labour right that it was all about Militant bully boys and intimidation by the left, my experience as a young Bennite in Tower Hamlets Labour Party, a very old traditional right wing Labour party, the intimidation was going the other way. It was an ugly time – physical threats, people shaping up to each other at meetings. It was nasty. Its nasty in a different way now, in a social media way. Can you compare the two? Some foul things happened in that time – perhaps worse in terms of physical intimidation – but you didn’t have the social media.

There are people who say the Labour Party is poised for a split – here in Plymouth (where we don’t have a Labour MP), I’m seeing comments from both sides that emphasise that after this leadership election we need to unite to fight the Tories. What do you think will happen?

I really hope a split can be avoided, but we’re a long way down the road towards a split. The sheer extent of the bad blood – the fact that the right have been openly talking about it – a number of newspaper articles about them lining up backing from wealthy donors, operating separately as a parliamentary group, then they pretend that butter wouldn’t melt in their mouths, and that they’re not talking about a split. Of course they are. Can we stop the kamikazes from doing what they’re plotting to do? I don’t know, I hope so.

How would we stop them?

We can’t, can we? If they have the financial backing, if they lose this leadership contest, there’s no doubt that some will try. I’m old enough to remember the launch of the SDP, let’s not rule it out happening again.

We’ve talked mostly about the membership. But is Corbynism a strategy to win elections?

With the new electoral registration rules already introduced, the coming boundary changes, and the loss of Scotland thanks to decades of New Labour neglect, it will be uphill struggle for Labour to win in 2020 or whenever the next election is, under any leadership.

I still think Corbyn is Labour’s best chance. Any form of continuity leadership from the past would see the Midlands and north fall to Ukip in the same way Scotland fell to the SNP. Corbyn is actually Labour’s only chance.

Margaret Corvid is a writer, activist and professional dominatrix living in the south west.