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  1. Politics
21 May 2010

Is it a good thing that Diane Abbott has joined the Labour leadership race?

And who else should throw their hat in the ring?

By Mehdi Hasan

My column in this week’s New Statesman examines the Labour leadership race and says that it’s time for the two Eds, Miliband Sr and Andy Burnham to “come clean” on their views. As Jon Cruddas has pointed out, do we really know what they stand for? What they believe?

I also have a lighter piece in today’s Guardian G2 proclaiming my delight at the decision by Diane Abbott to put herself forward as a candidate for the Labour leadership:

Hooray for Diane Abbott! I never thought I’d write those words. I’ve been ultra-critical of her in recent days, dismissing Abbott as one of the unreconstructed Labour tribalists who had scuppered any prospects of a post-election deal with the Liberal Democrats and a new “rainbow coalition” of the centre left.

But how grateful I am to the MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington for entering the Labour leadership race. And to John McDonnell, the secondary-school dropout and son of a bus driver. So far the contest has resembled a City boardroom. Two Eds. Two brothers. Plus Andy Burnham. All of them white, male, fortysomething, Oxbridge graduates.

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THANK YOU

Was this the best Labour could do, 81 years after the appointment of the first woman cabinet minister, 35 years after the Conservative Party elected a female leader and 23 years after the arrival of the first four ethnic-minority MPs in parliament? Could no suitable female or non-white candidates be found among the 258-strong Parliamentary Labour Party? Perhaps the party needed to appoint itself a diversity czar.

Don’t get me wrong. David Miliband, Ed Miliband, Ed Balls and Andy Burnham are all talented candidates. But I can’t pretend I wasn’t disappointed by the glaring lack of diversity on offer in Labour’s first leadership contest for 16 years.

For the record, I didn’t pick the headline (“Why I’m glad Diane Abbott has entered the race”) and I’m not an Abbott supporter. Nor do I think she has any chance of actually winning.

But here is my question to all of you: are you satisfied with the current crop of Labour leadership candidates? If not, who else would you like to see throw their hat in the ring?

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