Wednesday, January 03, 2007


Beckett Forced to Over-rule her own Opposition to Foreign Policy

An intelligent piece by former Downing St spinnerLance Price today reminds us that Margaret Beckett was deputy leader in 1994 but made the decision to go for the top job instead and lost. Had she remained in the number two post she might well have succeeded in remaining in this role for the full New Labour period in power. Price suggests her adherence to principle, compared to Prezza's opportunist prgamatism, might have had a bearing on how things panned out. I'm not so sure.

I once asked her to address a small seminar of politics teachers back in the early eighties.[her fellow presenter was no less than Robert Kilroy-Silk would you believe?] She basically went on to deliver the then familiar Bennite agenda of making MPs more removable by the membership, permeating all sections of the party with democratic accountability and so forth. When it came to advancing her own career however, she found it no problem to cast aside all this previously passionately held ideological baggage. She kept mum about it and pretended it had never happened.

But Price is almost certainly right that she is at heart opposed to the thrust of the foreign policy she is obliged to defend on Iraq and defence policy over Trident. But as Price points out such objections, whatever the discomforts, are kept hidden from view. The same is true of the three candidates for the deputy leadership - Benn, Hain and Harman - who are opposed to Trident; with a PM committed to it as well as the putative next PM, they have all avoided grasping the nettle; as with Beckett, mums the word for them too.

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But Margaret Beckett did stand for and win the deputy leadership in 1992; she gave it up in 1994 to fight for the leadership.
Sorry, my careless mistake there. She was, also of course, acting leader for a while after John Smith's heart attack and it was this which probably persuaded her she could win the contest for the top job.
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