What next for Diane Abbott?

Ed Miliband says the Labour left-winger has a “part to play” after the leadership election.

It's another busy morning in the Labour leadership election with just a day to go until ballot papers land on party members' doormats.

The Miliband brothers have both criticised Peter Mandelson's astonishingly self-indulgent comments to the Times (£), Ed Balls has unveiled a housing plan that would use a £6bn windfall to build 100,000 extra affordable homes, and Andy Burnham is giving a speech on the NHS in Liverpool, appealing to the Lib Dems to oppose the Tories' break-up of the health service.

But, as on other occasions, it's Diane Abbott, once viewed as the most media-savvy of the candidates, who can't get a look-in. Despite the excitement that greeted her arrival on the ballot paper, Abbott's campaign has lacked momentum and just 11 of the 33 MPs who nominated her are now expected to vote for her. Abbott can bank on firmer support from the grass roots of the party but, as things stand, she may struggle to avoid last place.

However, consolation is at hand from Ed Miliband. Today's Times (£) reports that the younger Miliband has hinted that Abbott deserves a place in the shadow cabinet. At an event in Bethnal Green, east London, last night, Miliband said:

I'm not naming a shadow cabinet . . . that would be seen as presumptuous. And rightly so. But Diane shouldn't just go back to This Week when this is over. She has a part to play.

Miliband's comments may be cited by his brother's camp as another example of his alleged "pandering" to the left, but others would recall Lyndon Johnson's adage that "it's better to have them inside the tent pissing out than outside pissing in".

One thing that could change the dynamic of the race is if Abbott does what no candidate has yet done and names a second preference. Could some future role for her be a quid pro quo for her support in the election? It would make a lot of sense.

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Recess confidential: Labour's liquid party

Sniffing out the best stories from Westminster, including Showsec, soames, and Smith-side splits.

If you are celebrating in a brewery, don’t ask Labour to provide the drinks. Because of the party’s continuing failure to secure a security contractor for its Liverpool conference, it is still uncertain whether the gathering will take place at all. Since boycotting G4S, the usual supplier, over its links with Israeli prisons, Labour has struggled to find an alternative. Of the five firms approached, only one – Showsec – offered its services. But the company’s non-union-recognition policy is inhibiting an agreement. The GMB, the firm’s antagonist, has threatened to picket the conference if Showsec is awarded the contract. In lieu of a breakthrough, sources suggest two alternatives: the police (at a cost of £59.65 per constable per hour), or the suspension of the G4S boycott. “We’ll soon find out which the Corbynites dislike the least,” an MP jested. Another feared that the Tories’ attack lines will write themselves: “How can Labour be trusted with national security if it can’t organise its own?”

Farewell, then, to Respect. The left-wing party founded in 2004 and joined by George Galloway after his expulsion from Labour has officially deregistered itself.

“We support Corbyn’s Labour Party,” the former MP explained, urging his 522,000 Facebook followers to sign up. “The Labour Party does not belong to one man,” replied Jess Phillips MP, who also pointed out in the same tweet that Respect had “massively failed”. Galloway, who won 1.4 per cent of the vote in this year’s London mayoral election, insists that he is not seeking to return to Labour. But he would surely be welcomed by Jeremy Corbyn’s director of communications, Seumas Milne, whom he once described as his “closest friend”. “We have spoken almost daily for 30 years,” Galloway boasted.

After Young Labour’s national committee voted to endorse Corbyn, its members were aggrieved to learn that they would not be permitted to promote his candidacy unless Owen Smith was given equal treatment. The leader’s supporters curse more “dirty tricks” from the Smith-sympathetic party machine.

Word reaches your mole of a Smith-side split between the ex-shadow cabinet ministers Lisa Nandy and Lucy Powell. The former is said to be encouraging the challenger’s left-wing platform, while the latter believes that he should make a more centrist pitch. If, as expected, Smith is beaten by Corbyn, it’s not only the divisions between the leader and his opponents that will be worth watching.

Nicholas Soames, the Tory grandee, has been slimming down – so much so, that he was congratulated by Tom Watson, Labour’s deputy leader, on his weight loss. “Soon I’ll be able to give you my old suits!” Soames told the similarly rotund Watson. 

Kevin Maguire is away

I'm a mole, innit.

This article first appeared in the 25 August 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Cameron: the legacy of a loser