As the excellent Labour Uncut site reported yesterday, the Labour party machine and the various campaigns swung into action today to ensure that Diane Abbott, an MP on the marginal wing of the extreme left of the Labour party got enough nominations to be on the ballot paper and lose in a future leadership election.
This is quite remarkable. It’s like Hugh Gaitskill busting a gut to make sure Tom Driberg was a candidate for leader. (That brief bio makes Driberg sound quite salacious, but he was a fairly credible political figure at the time)
The party move for Abbott was done, we are told, to ensure the widest range of choice for party members. It was not significant that Diane Abbott could barely muster half a dozen MPs to truly support her candidacy, she must still go on the ballot paper.
Fair enough. You can only conclude that MPs don’t want the burdensome duty of choosing the candidates they think best suited to the tough job of leading the Labour party. So they shouldn’t be surprised when moves are made to remove it from them, as Peter Kenyon, a left wing member of the NEC, has already proposed.
Now obviously, the leadership candidates did this so they could appear all “let a thousand flowers bloom” about the leadership election. Fine. Leaving aside the stunning lack of self confidence it takes for Leadership candidates to believe it needs the presence of Diane Abbott to valididate their campaigns, the decisions they took today will have consequences.
So here’s how I expect it to play out from here. I will likely be wrong, but hey, if so, you can tell me why!
First, the media will make Diane Abbott’s nomination the story of the early part of campaign, giving her huge publicity and momentum. She will get far more media attention than her politcal credibility deserves, not least because the media are already bored with the other four, and Ms Abbott is nothing if not quotable.
Second, various hard left factions in trade unions will organise to try and secure nominations and support for Diane in the affilliates section of the electoral college. This will give the union political teams nightmares, and will end up dragging a couple of the candidates a bit to the left to hold the union left factions off.
Third, Diane Abbott and the Grassroots alliance will work to ensure that the composition of the NEC is significantly more left wing than previously, using the bully pulpit of the campaign to get a couple more of the hard-left elected.
Fourth, this process will be used to push forward a policy agenda that will be massively out of sync with the vast majority of the Labour party, and although it will be heavily defeated, it will have an imprint on the party that will last.
Finally this campaign will give the hard left the chance to build funding, contacts and voting blocs that will be used in future NEC, NPF and conference votes.
When the next leader of the Labour party is cursing their NEC at 3am of the Tuesday of conference as they devote hours to trying to deflect yet another obscure leftist policy proposal, while being lampooned in the press for their weakness, perhaps they will have cause to look back at this moment and wonder if the chance to look noble on Twitter was really worth it.