Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Fabian Frolics

One Person, Numerous Votes

So far I have received three ballot papers. For instance, as a national member of the Fabian Society I am entitled to participate in their ballot for the Deputy Leadership of the Labour Party.

My Fabian voting paper arrived along with a booklet containing essays from the six contestants. These vary in size from around 1,750 to 2,500 words.

I found them to be an easy read, aided by the fact that generally they vary in style and content. I had expected much of a muchness; hotch potches, making sweet noises but without making cashable recommendations.

But only Hilary Benn and Alan Johnson adopt this approach.

Fun With Hazel And Peter

Hazel Blears and Peter Hain are much more fun. They have disguised snipes at each other. Moreover they both have themes, which sharply differ. Admittedly, their themes are predictable, but that is better than there being absent.

Hazel is the New Labour warrior, convinced that we have done a damned good job and need to press on down a similar way. She recognises, of course, that as part of a moderniser's agenda, we never step into the same river twice. But if we keep the faith, we will surely win another General Election.

Peter wants to stress both the advances and shortcomings of New Labour. This gives him the opening to hint at some radical new ground rules, which all fall under his theoretical appreciations of the values of "libertarian socialism".

Mould Breaking With Harriet And Jon

But Harriet Harman and Jon Cruddas adopt surprising approaches. They present think pieces, each around their own distinctive single topic. There is no rushing at break-neck speed through climate change, making poverty history or health and education.

Instead, Harriet deals only with family matters. This, of course, is intended to highlight the role and needs of women. So it fits neatly into Harriet's campaign theme of "I'm a woman". But it does show that there is a substantial agenda here and with Harriet up front it might re-connect us with the female vote.

Jon The Clever

The biggest surprise, however, comes from Jon. His piece reads as if it was produced for an academic journal. There is nothing about his plans for democratising the Labour Party, nor does he point out that he does not want a Cabinet post. Quite correctly, he assumes that we know that by now.

Instead, he realises that Fabian's like to think of themselves as thinkers. So he gives them a piece examining what has happened to the working class. As he concludes that it is still as prominent as ever and needs to be courted, he also says things that John McDonnell's camp love to hear. So he seeks to capture two birds at once - Fabian thinkers and Hard Left ranters.

In the spirit of the dialectics of debate, I merely suggest that he takes on board some points about changes is working class life which I feel he has missed. They are here, see the final section entitled "The Working Class".

But I am beginning to think that Jon is a smart cookie. On TV today he was asked who he would like to see in a Labour Cabinet and came up with the name of "Neil Gerrard". That is a clever choice. It will appeal like mad to the Hard Left, yet will not upset others. Neil always pursues his corner soundly and without rancour. Pity he is retiring at the next General Election.


So do I now move Jon above Hilary in my list of choices? And what of Harriet? Then look at this goody from Alan. This voting lark is really getting confusing and I thought I knew the characters concerned. Still Peter-the-first and Hazel-the-last, still stand.

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