Balls to Abbott
I am very concerned that the Grassroots Alliance appears, according to the website, to be supporting Diane Abbott as its preferred leadership candidate. (Update: some clarity on this issue and the relationship between the site and the Allliance constituent members provided below.)
I do not follow, or even understand, all the processes within the Alliance, but I am not aware that there has been any kind of open discussion amongst the Alliance’s contributing organisations about which leadership candidate might be supported as part of the overall ‘slate’, if any.
The LRC (where my individual membership lies) voted to support John McDonnell, via its national committee, but I am not aware that any further meeting has been held following John’s withdrawal (the statement on which, in any case, did not mention Diane Abbott as his preferred ‘successor’).
For my own part, I do not currently consider Diane Abbott to be the most suitable candidate for the support of the Alliance, which has as one of its key areas of work the promotion of democracy within the party.
To date I have not heard or read any statement from Diane Abbott that suggests she takes any great interest in this area; indeed I found a recent email by her, in which she simply says that she ‘is more in touch with the grassroots’ than her rivals, without offering any specific commitment to organisational reform within the party, really quite patronising; she seemed to be suggesting she will use special powers, presumably developed sometime in the 1980s to interpret grassroots sentiment, and that this will be quite sufficient as a mechanism for ensuring that the Labour party gets it right. Doesn’t Silvio Berlusconi also offer that ‘common touch’?
In this respect, I even put both David Miliband, with his promise of some organisational reform (however tokenistic) of the cabinet, ahead of Diane Abbott on my ‘scoresheet’. I may have real doubts about Miliband senior’s ‘community leadership’ initiative (not least as I have tried but failed to get on to it to see what it’s like, and discovered in the process that it may be more handy campaign tool than open programme aimed at real ‘change’), but Miliband is at least trying something new which may have a kernel of usefulness in there somewhere.
More particularly, while I think it stops well short of the radical reversal of power structures that we need, I think Ed Balls has offered the best evidence of thinking through the relevant issues.
In contrast, Diane Abbott appears happy to rely on her reputation as a ‘grassroots’ person, rather than propose anything substantive. That is not good enough to get my vote at this stage, though there is still time for her to win me over, and this poor performance is in addition to disappointing early showings on matters of substantive policy.
I am therefore surprised that Diane Abbott appears, at first sight, to be being awarded the uncritical support of the Alliance, and by extension constituent groups, both in terms of the process for giving that support and the actuality of what she has had to say so far.
ps. Anyone interested that the Alliance’s leaflet promoting its NEC (and NCC) slate gets the name of one its constituent organisations wrong? It’s the Labour Representation Committee, not the Labour Black Representation Committee (bottom of page 2). (Update: some clarity on this issue given below in comments)