My ballot paper as an individual member of the Labour Party arrived today. As things stand (unless I can be convinced by strong countervailing arguments), I intend to place the only two women in the contest for Deputy Leader in the last two places.
Here are my order of preferences and the reasoning behind my choices -
First Choice - Peter Hain
Although he has involved himself in all the compromises of being a member of Blair's Governments, he seems to me to have a greater understanding and belief in the case for libertarian socialism than anyone else who is likely to achieve office in the current state of the Parliamentary Labour Party. His Governmental record also shows him to have pushed the boat out further in a democratic socialist direction than anyone else. And at last he has spoken out.
Second Choice - Hilary Benn
There is a sharp drop in the curve after my first choice. With Hilary, I am influenced by the fact that he has a decent record as the Minister for Overseas Development. On the other hand, it is easier under the normal confines of New Labour to make a reasonable fist of this job than of any other. What would he be like elsewhere?
I don't go for the way he tries to use his loose Bennite connections, as when he says "Labour values are in my blood". For one thing, I am myself an old Bevanite and feel that Bennism was often over the top. This criticism can't, of course, apply to Hilary, but I doubt whether he would match up in Bevanite terms either. I only go for him here because he looks better than the following choices.
Third Choice - Jon Cruddas
I am not grabbed by the argument that he doesn't wish to be Deputy Prime Minister. For I would like my vote to influence the determining of who is offered that post; especially when I am not allowed to have a vote to determine who will be Leader/Prime Minister.
And although Jon is the only candidate who is from outside the Government and has been free from the restraints of collective responsibility, what did he ever do from the freedom of the back-benches before he announced his candidature? He only edges in front of my next choice because he finally hit on the usefulness of a platform which contained the advancement of internal Labour Party democracy.
Fourth Choice - Alan Johnson
It is now getting more and more difficult to find anything positive to say about my final choices. Alan's saving grace is that there is one issue he carries over from his Trade Union experiences. He believes that it is right for our fellow citizens in Northern Ireland to be able to choose to be full participants within the Labour Party. Such an approach attempts to cut across the Catholic-Protestant political divide, especially in working class areas. It is an approach that is neither Green nor Orange, but Red.
He had the guts to go to Belfast and press this line, a 100 years after the very first Labour Party Conference was held there (previous Conferences were summoned by the preceding Labour Representation Committee). So unlike Blair, he does at least have a sense of history.
But otherwise, he has been so tucked in with the Blair agenda (especially on education) that I can give him no additional defence.
Fifth Choice - Harriet Harman
Harriet is next, but only because it is Hazel that remains. And she only has the edge over Hazel because of her own incompetence. Hazel is a tough, hard-line and able Blairite. With her as, say, Deputy Prime Minister, the chances of moving beyond the Blaitite agenda are diminished. Having Harriet in the post would be even less dynamic than continuing with John Prescott in situ. She is then less of a danger than Hazel.
Admittedly, Harriet has picked up some of Jon Cruddas programme on inner-party democracy . Yet he knows what he means.
Last Of Them All - Hazel Blears
She is the most Blairite of the candidates and willingly grabbed the appointed Party Chairmanship when it was offered to her. She is a loyalist to the hilt. More dangerous still, she is an able loyalist. Give her a script and she will ram it down your throat.
Waiting For Ms Godot
A great disaster of the Deputy Leadership Elections is that it contains no female candidate who has any democratic socialist instincts and ability. Yet there are numbers. My favourite would have been Yvette Cooper. She has a record of studying difficult problems and coming up with worthwhile solutions. These go beyond her seeming entrapment in the Gordon Brown camp. With a brave campaign, she could well have been my first choice.