A few weeks ago my MP John Spellar called for the Labour Deputy Leadership contest to be scrapped…
‘Why do we want to spend the best part of £2m on a non-job that has no real role. Let’s call the whole thing off. Not only are there costs to consider, but we face increasing problems inside the Cabinet where so many members will be trying to differentiate themselves from colleagues rather than working together under collective responsibility. We face a costly exercise & divisions among Cabinet ministers for the next 9 mnths. We don’t need a deputy leader in government’
…and according to The Indy today (albeit on some pretty flimsy evidence) “a growing number of MPs are saying that the party would be better off not having an election for the deputy leadership.”
Initially, I must say my first impression was to agree with John Spellar (not something I think either he or I would acknowledge happens very frequently). However, on the basis that the Leadership position is looking increasingly like a coronation for Gordon Brown, I do think a Deputy Leadership contest will give the party an opportunity to debate and influence the direction of the party.
Of course, ideally we wouldn’t have to spend millions of pounds on a Deputy Leadership election in order to do this, and many in the party fear it would be acrimonious and divisive (although I think the Davis-Cameron contest shows you can have an open contest without it getting personal and bitterly divisive). However, with party conference effectively neutered (in order to show we are not bitter and divided) and the policy making process a mystery to 95% of party members… at least a Leader/Deputy Leadership contest allows grassroots (we used to call them rank and file but I think that’s a bit frowned upon these days) members to get involved in debating and influencing the policies and future strategy of the party.
So… let’s get on and have an election… but hopefully, not being bitter and divisive won’t mean we have a ‘contest’ in which everyone puts forward such anodyne manifestos that we won’t be able to slip a fag packet betweeen them. Don’t tell us what you think we want to hear… tell us what you think.