Ben Bradshaw, a candidate for the vacant post of deputy Labour leader. Photo: Getty Images
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Defeated parliamentary candidates call on Labour MPs to back Ben Bradshaw

In an open letter to the New Statesman, 14 defeated PPCs from the South and East of England have asked the parliamentary Labour party to put Ben Bradshaw on the ballot paper.

14 defeated Labour parliamentary candidates from the South and East of England have written an open letter to the parliamentary Labour party, asking that Ben Bradshaw, the MP for Exeter and one of a handful of Labour MPs outside London, Wales and the North, is included on the ballot for the Labour party deputy leadership election.

"It is imperative," they argue, "that the Labour Party hears the voices of people who campaigned hard here for a Labour victory, of residents who voted Labour, and also of those people who might have voted Labour but who chose not to do so this time". The signatories come from across the party, and include Polly Billington, a former aide to Ed Miliband, now working on Sadiq Khan's campaign for the London mayoralty. 

To make it to the ballot paper, candidates require the support of 12.5 per cent of MPs - 35 names in total. Bradshaw has eight declared so far. 

 

The full letter is below.

Dear Members of the PLP,

 

We write as recent Labour Parliamentary Candidates who ran in Southern and Eastern England constituencies at the general election, and who saw up close the disconnect that the Labour Party can sometimes have with voters in our respective towns, cities and urban regions across Southern and Eastern England.

With only 12 constituencies of 197 across our regions returning a Labour MP on May 7, it is imperative that the Labour Party hears the voices of people who campaigned hard here for a Labour victory, of residents who voted Labour, and also of those people who might have voted Labour but who chose not to do so this time.

With the geographic make-up of the Parliamentary Labour Party now predominantly focused around the North of England, Wales and London, it is essential that the ongoing Leader and Deputy Leader campaigns are representative of the whole country.

In order to ensure that our voices are heard, we are calling on the PLP to ensure that Ben Bradshaw MP gains the nominations needed to see him on the ballot for Deputy Leader. Since 1997 Ben has held Exeter, a previously safe Tory constituency, for Labour and indeed he trebled his majority to over 7000 at this election, bucking the national trend.

Ben’s successful record of effective campaign organisation, built on an aspirational message for the success of everyone in the City of Exeter, and allied to his hard work as a Constituency MP means that he has the experience, the knowledge and the long-term vision that will be vital in the current debate on the future direction of the Labour Party.

 

Yours,

 

Polly Billington, Thurrock PPC

​Mark Dempsey, North Swindon PPC​

Todd Foreman, North East Somerset PPC

Michael Foster, Camborne, Redruth and Hayle PPC

Sophy Gardner, Gloucester PPC

Darren Jones, Bristol North West PPC

Naushabah Khan, Rochester & Strood PPC

Mike Le-Surf, South Basildon and East Thurrock PPC

Jo McCarron, Kingswood PPC

Guy Nicholson, Sittingbourne and Sheppey PPC

Tris Osborne, Chatham & Aylesford PPC

Luke Pollard, Plymouth Sutton & Devonport PPC

Matt Turmaine, Watford PPC

Mark Dempsey, Swindon North 

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

Photo: Getty
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Scotland's vast deficit remains an obstacle to independence

Though the country's financial position has improved, independence would still risk severe austerity. 

For the SNP, the annual Scottish public spending figures bring good and bad news. The good news, such as it is, is that Scotland's deficit fell by £1.3bn in 2016/17. The bad news is that it remains £13.3bn or 8.3 per cent of GDP – three times the UK figure of 2.4 per cent (£46.2bn) and vastly higher than the white paper's worst case scenario of £5.5bn. 

These figures, it's important to note, include Scotland's geographic share of North Sea oil and gas revenue. The "oil bonus" that the SNP once boasted of has withered since the collapse in commodity prices. Though revenue rose from £56m the previous year to £208m, this remains a fraction of the £8bn recorded in 2011/12. Total public sector revenue was £312 per person below the UK average, while expenditure was £1,437 higher. Though the SNP is playing down the figures as "a snapshot", the white paper unambiguously stated: "GERS [Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland] is the authoritative publication on Scotland’s public finances". 

As before, Nicola Sturgeon has warned of the threat posed by Brexit to the Scottish economy. But the country's black hole means the risks of independence remain immense. As a new state, Scotland would be forced to pay a premium on its debt, resulting in an even greater fiscal gap. Were it to use the pound without permission, with no independent central bank and no lender of last resort, borrowing costs would rise still further. To offset a Greek-style crisis, Scotland would be forced to impose dramatic austerity. 

Sturgeon is undoubtedly right to warn of the risks of Brexit (particularly of the "hard" variety). But for a large number of Scots, this is merely cause to avoid the added turmoil of independence. Though eventual EU membership would benefit Scotland, its UK trade is worth four times as much as that with Europe. 

Of course, for a true nationalist, economics is irrelevant. Independence is a good in itself and sovereignty always trumps prosperity (a point on which Scottish nationalists align with English Brexiteers). But if Scotland is to ever depart the UK, the SNP will need to win over pragmatists, too. In that quest, Scotland's deficit remains a vast obstacle. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.