By Peter Willsman – Labour Party NEC member
Diane Abbott’s leadership campaign has excited comrades about the possibilities that have been opened up. The party’s left wing will for the first time since the 1980s be able to participate in the contest and put its views before the party membership. Additionally, the left is putting forward a candidate who has wide appeal. In the two public polls published since Diane put her name forward for consideration she has either been the voters’ first or second choice for leader. She will bring a breath of fresh air compared to the list of white males who are also on the ballot paper.
The left needs to pull together and put its efforts into building support for Diane’s campaign, as this will help get across the popular agenda that Labour needs to adopt so it can rebuild support amongst the electorate. Diane will ensure there is a proper debate on the direction Labour should take, which party members have been saying is desperately needed.
The two Eds, in particular, will now have to clearly set out where they stand in relation to the abomination that was New Labour. As Jon Cruddas has said, he has known the Eds for nearly 20 years but still does not know where they stand on most major political issues. After Diane launched her campaign, pointing out how wrong it was to invade Iraq and the damage it did to Labour’s support, both Eds publicly distanced themselves from Blair’s decision to invade and indicated they understood the need for rebuilding the trust that Labour lost as a result.
Diane’s critique of neo-liberalism, her support for investment for growth and opposition to reductions in public spending, for progressive taxation, social justice, anti neo-con military adventurism and for peace can now all be aired in the course of the forthcoming election campaign.
Like Diane, I have been appalled at the way other leadership candidates and their supporters are targeting immigrants. Suggestions that migrants are the cause of low wages or to blame for fact that the Labour government did insufficient to address the housing shortage are just plain wrong. There is no evidence that migration has had any impact on wages and terms of conditions. But it is clear the last government fiercely resisted proposals to regulate the labour market thus allowing wages to be driven down, irrespective of the nationality of the workers. In fact there is strong evidence that the migration of the past decade contributed to strengthening economic growth and improving public services.
Some of Diane’s opponents have been keen to harp on ad nausea about her choosing private education for her son. She has said many times her personal decision on this was at odds with her view of the type of quality public education system she wants to see available for all. As a secondary modern pupil, who eventually gained two degrees, no one knows more than I do about the inequalities of the education system. But one questionable personal act does not rule Diane out. Several of the other candidates voted for an illegal and neo-imperialist war that resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent people. That certainly should rule them out.