Friday, 1 January 2010

Arise therefore

Sometimes I wonder what it takes to become a political journo, given the quality of some of the articles. Take this piece from the Independent on Labour candidates standing at the next election. The suggestion is that it's a tired old bunch of former Council leaders. Couldn't be further from the truth. OK, nine of the 59 candidates selected in key seats are council leaders or former council leaders, which sounds about right to me. (Take a look at Simon Burgess, the former leader of Brighton + Hove, who's standing in Brighton Kemptown. I've known him since 1998 when we were both elected to Labour's National Policy Forum. Thoroughly decent bloke. Very Brighton, in that he's passionate about the environment, vegetarian, even has good taste in music.)

So let's look at some of the other candidates Labour has selected in winnable seats. For a start. we're almost certain to see the first Asian woman MP, with Rushanara Ali standing in Bethnal Green + Bow, Shabana Mahmood in Birmingham Ladywood, Yasmin Qureshi in Bolton South East and my personal favourite, 27 year old Maryam Khan in Bury North. (Never met her, but love her tweets @Maryam4BuryNth. And yes, she's a former councillor, which makes something of a mockery of the Independent assuming that "councillor" = boring old guard).

Another young Asian candidate, Anas Sarwar, who made an excellent speech at Labour conference a couple of years ago, is standing in Glasgow Central. Then of course we have the rather suave Chuka Umunna standing in Streatham. And Chinyelu Onwurah in Newcastle Central, who I've heard very good things about. Have a look at her biog, and tell me what's old guard about that!

Then there are plenty of feisty young women, from Stella Creasy in Walthamstow, Rachel Reeves in Leeds West, Emma Reynolds in Wolverhampton South East and Lucy Powell in Manchester Withington (trust me, John Leech does not stand a chance!) I've just mentioned the ones I know best. Late addition.... Liz Kendall in Leicester West. Excellent choice.

And of course we have the return of Stephen Twigg in Liverpool West Derby (former Minister, but anyone who describes him as old guard really doesn't know Stephen!)

Final plug must go to some old mates who are standing in marginal seats. Daniel Zeichner in Cambridge (whose chances have been boosted by the current absence of both a Lib Dem and Tory candidate!), Andrew Pakes in Milton Keynes North (leading light in SERA and according to my sister who lives in the seat, really gunning for it), and of course Paul Smith, Sam Townend and Ian Boulton in Bristol West, Bristol North West and Filton Bradley Stoke. Paul is of course an Alderman, which makes him a bastion of the old guard!


bristolwestpaul said...

Pleased to see the change in Newcastle Central, one of my old parties, Jim Cousins did look like something out of the 1950s politburo

Will said...

This may sound like an odd point, but you could have done more to criticise the premise of the argument. I'd argue that local Councillors and Council Leaders are exactly who every party with a wish to govern needs on its benches.

For example, you're in a situation where the main Opposition party's candidate for PM's only experience of government was working as an advisor to Norman Lamont. Similarly, Tony Blair was, you could argue, one of the least politically experienced members of his Cabinets. What sort of company in any other walk of life would let someone with little management experience in the field waltz into Head Office and become Managing Director?

By contrast, Germany and the US generally encourage their candidates for the top job to have that experience of being in Government, even if it's only at state level. Merkel had been a Minister in the Kohl Government, Schroeder and Kohl had both been State Premiers, Schmidt had been a Minister under Brandt, who himself had been a Mayor of West Berlin and the only Chancellor not to have been in an Executive before was the first one, Adenauer. Similarly, Obama is the first US President since Kennedy not to have been involved in an administration before reaching the White House.

So experience matters, and with no "State"-level administrations in the UK save the devolved governments and the GLA, that leaves local Cuncillors as the people with experience of governance while a party is in Opposition at Westminster. Personally, I'd see that sort of experience as a good thing to be brought to bear.

warelane said...

It is egotistical to plug myself?

J said...

FAO: Julian Ware-Lane.

(1) Yes it is, but you are, so we expect it.

(2) The article was about selectionsin winnable seats.

Chris Paul said...

AFAIK Maryam is NOT an ex- councillor!!! She's a current councillor! And a solicitor. She spoke at LabCon 08 in Manchester and also got right in Nick Griffin's face at Euro count. Wearing Union Jack dress!

Kerry said...

I don't know why I put former... I'm sure you're right Chris. Now go and lie down before you get too excited!

Dorian Gray said...

Nick Hillman is the Conservative candidate for Cambridge. His blog is here: