Wednesday, May 30, 2007

 

Benn Shaded the Newsnight Debate for Me.

It was a curious kind of debate but at least it was a debate and it is a contest. All these candidates are dead keen and want to win and that's good. The problem with such hustings though is that they bring appearances into the frame when really it's the arguments and the qualities which should be foremost. At first I assumed Hazel Blears must be sitting down and possibly had a bad back or such like but then realised that she was in fact standing up. Placing her alongside the lofty Hilary Benn only made things seem even more bizarre. Paxo seemed unusually gruff and schoolmaster-like so the atmosphere was less than relaxed.

Harmon showed more strongly than I expected but Blears was a bit squeaky and lightweight though undeniably feisty. Cruddas gained valuable publicity for party members like me as, not being a minister, he lacks face and name recognition. He will have gained leftwing brownie points for urging withdrawal from Iraq(not Gordon's line at present) and I was attracted by his view of the job as purely a nexus between party and leadership. But I have to confess that throughout I found his face a little hard to like- shameful I know, but I'm trying to be honest. Peter Hain seemed a bit awkward. His mien is rather superior as if he's senior to everyone else and he dresses in more senior and superior way (don't ask about that permatan). He almost seems as if he shouldn't be there. He handled the questions like a true professional but that was part of his problem - he seemed like too much one of the New Labour 'establishment' and trust suffered accordingly.

Alan Johnson was impressive. He is transparently honest and refreshingly direct but I think he struck a slightly wrong note for this contest when he denied any restrictions should be placed on high level earnings on the grounds that this was 'non aspirational'. Just at the moment there is much muttering in activist ranks about 'fat cats', City bonuses and the growing inequality gap and a less honest, more finessed response might have served him better- most of the other candidates- with the exception of Hain- tacked in this latter direction. Some polls have shown Johnson leading the pack but for me the most impressive person was Hilary Benn.

His height and natural courtesy lend him authority, something which his ministerial experience has enhanced. His voice too- so much like his father's- is soft and persuasive but with a strong hint of underlying toughness. He charmingly evaded questions such as who he would vote for if he were not standing himself by saying he was happy to leave the matter to the party membership. According to the excellent Political Betting Benn leads Johnson in the stakes with the rest some way behind.

Given his name recognition and his inherent communication skills I cannot see who can now stop him, despite his earlier difficulty in acquiring sufficient MP nomination numbers. He also benefits from the Labour Party members' 'leftwing conscience' effect. For years we kind of knew with our hearts Benn senior's arguments were right but in our heads reasoned they were impractical. This election, by proxy, enables us to vote with our hearts for once. The contest- as this tends to confirm, must be Hilary's to lose from now on.

Comments:
I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw the line up! Why is Hazel Blears KNEELING on the floor? I thought.

Having seen the rather sexy picture of her on Guido's blog recently, I was prepared to let my lust run riot - but I'm afraid it withered on the vine when I realised that she is in fact a PIXIE!
 
I agree about the point with Blears. She looked ridiculous. Surely she should have stood on a box.

As someone who wishes only the worst for Labour, perhaps my views are not worth so much. But then logic would suggest you should always do what your enemy least wants you to. It seemed obvious to me that some of the candidates are embarrassing poor. I don't mind disagreeing with a politician, but I do object to them being thick. Harman is that. Plain and simple. That such a woman can attain any office above car parking attendent is a cause for concern for this country. Blears is impossible to take seriously. Their pitch seems to be "vote for me, I'm a woman", which should insult even the intelligence of the average Labour member. Blears is also too close to Blair to really cleanse herself and lead a "new politics". Harman has something wrong with her. Incapable of answering a simple question, and Hain is little better. The section where they had to say just "yes" or "no" was hilarious. Harman wouldn't even say the words! I disagree with his politics but respect Johnson. He is direct and a clear thinker. He also lives in the real world, a rare attribute with the Nu Labor oligarchs. I would be worried with him. And Benn is everything his father was - intelligent, articulate and decent - without the lunatic ideas. Again he would worry me. Cruddas is not bad, but would surely be devisive.

So as a right wing Tory, I only pray that they elect Harman, and would settle for Blears or Hain(a cretin of the highest order). Johnson and Benn are their best options and the choices I would least like to see.
 
Michael
I'm surprised you can access Newsnight out there in Japan. I can see why you judge as you do- Cruddas, Johnson and Benn are clearly the front runners. Ironic, perhaps, that an ambitious Cabinet member, Hain, is faring so badly to date. I think the contest is important, as to some extent, it's filling a gap caused by Gordon's brow furrowed determination not to be challenged.
 
Hain wears his ambition so loudly it is rather good news that he is faring badly. I agree with you that Benn is the most interesting and worthy of the contenders, although no one would discount the very media-friendly Johnson. As with Oakeshott, I'm cheering on Blears and Harman!
 
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