The dream team? Photo:Getty Images
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Deputy leader? It's a Stella for me

Prezza for Stella may sound like I’m after a lager, but I think Creasy could refresh parts of the party other candidates cannot reach.

Whilst all eyes are on the leadership race, there’s a contest that’s just as important, if not more so.

The Labour deputy ;eadership was always seen as the consolation prize for the person who failed to get the top job.

I felt this was wrong. I always believed strongly that the politics of organisation were equally as important as the politics of ideas.

A Labour leader has the direct responsibility for leading the party and convincing people that the policies are right for them and the country.

But that requires good organisation and an electoral machine. And to do that you need to motivate volunteers, increase your membership and raise funds.

That’s why I stood to be deputy leader, to be that motivator and campaigner to get Labour back to power. I stood and lost against Roy Hattersley in 1987 and Margaret Beckett in 1992.

But it was third time lucky in 1994 when Tony and I were elected Leader and Deputy. 

I stood for both posts whilst Blair only went for leader. As we waited backstage for the result I turned to him and said: “Tony, I’ve got a problem?” He looked at me nervously. “What’s that John?”he replied.

“Well I’ve only written an acceptance speech if I become deputy. If I get leader, can I borrow yours?”

From that moment on, I think we became a great team. In those three years before the election we doubled our membership and strengthened our organisation. Our ideas and organisation helped win an unprecedented three elections for Labour. Tony could concentrate on winning the election, safe in the knowledge that I had his back by building up our campaigning organisation.

That’s why the next deputy leader must be a born campaigner and organiser. You can’t do that job properly if you take a shadow ministerial brief as well. The task to rebuild our party is so immense that it needs someone focused like a laser on turning it around. We need a full-time Deputy Leader, not a Deputy Prime Minister in waiting.

And the one person who I think really gets this is Stella Creasy.

I was very impressed by her campaign against legal loan sharks and her commitment to community campaigning all year round.

I also really like her idea for the party to match funds raised by CLPs if they pledge to hit a certain target with more freedom as to what the money can be spent on.

We desperately need fresh campaigning ideas and innovative ways to raise money. Stella seems to be fizzing with ideas on turning Labour back into a sustainable campaigning party.

I think she’s got a lot to offer and I’m impressed she’s prepared to do the job full-time to get Labour ready for the electoral battles ahead.

But under our frankly bizarre leader and deputy leadership rules, the bar is too high to get on the ballot. We need as wide a field as possible. And Stella deserves to put her case to Labour members and supporters.

If I was still an MP, I would willingly nominate her myself.

But as I’m not, I really hope Labour MPs will nominate Stella so party members can have that real choice and debate on how we can become a campaigning movement again and start the journey back to Government. I also believe a Burnham-Creasy leadership could make a great team to appeal across the country. 

Prezza for Stella may sound like I’m after a lager, but I think Creasy could refresh parts of the party other candidates cannot reach.

And I’ll raise my pint to a deputy leader that can do that!

 

 

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How the Lib Dems learned to love all-women shortlists

Yes, the sitting Lib Dem MPs are mostly white, middle-aged middle class men. But the party's not taking any chances. 

I can’t tell you who’ll be the Lib Dem candidate in Southport on 8 June, but I do know one thing about them. As they’re replacing a sitting Lib Dem (John Pugh is retiring) - they’ll be female.

The same is true in many of our top 20 target seats, including places like Lewes (Kelly-Marie Blundell), Yeovil (Daisy Benson), Thornbury and Yate (Clare Young), and Sutton and Cheam (Amna Ahmad). There was air punching in Lib Dem offices all over the country on Tuesday when it was announced Jo Swinson was standing again in East Dunbartonshire.

And while every current Lib Dem constituency MP will get showered with love and attention in the campaign, one will get rather more attention than most - it’s no coincidence that Tim Farron’s first stop of the campaign was in Richmond Park, standing side by side with Sarah Olney.

How so?

Because the party membership took a long look at itself after the 2015 election - and a rather longer look at the eight white, middle-aged middle class men (sorry chaps) who now formed the Parliamentary party and said - "we’ve really got to sort this out".

And so after decades of prevarication, we put a policy in place to deliberately increase the diversity of candidates.

Quietly, over the last two years, the Liberal Democrats have been putting candidates into place in key target constituencies . There were more than 300 in total before this week’s general election call, and many of them have been there for a year or more. And they’ve been selected under new procedures adopted at Lib Dem Spring Conference in 2016, designed to deliberately promote the diversity of candidates in winnable seats

This includes mandating all-women shortlists when selecting candidates who are replacing sitting MPs, similar rules in our strongest electoral regions. In our top 10 per cent of constituencies, there is a requirement that at least two candidates are shortlisted from underrepresented groups on every list. We became the first party to reserve spaces on the shortlists of winnable seats for underrepresented candidates including women, BAME, LGBT+ and disabled candidates

It’s not going to be perfect - the hugely welcome return of Lib Dem grandees like Vince Cable, Ed Davey and Julian Huppert to their old stomping grounds will strengthen the party but not our gender imbalance. But excluding those former MPs coming back to the fray, every top 20 target constituency bar one has to date selected a female candidate.

Equality (together with liberty and community) is one of the three key values framed in the preamble to the Lib Dem constitution. It’s a relief that after this election, the Liberal Democratic party in the Commons will reflect that aspiration rather better than it has done in the past.

Richard Morris blogs at A View From Ham Common, which was named Best New Blog at the 2011 Lib Dem Conference

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