Labour leadership hustings: tacking left?

Submitted by AWL on 15 July, 2010 - 9:25

Hustings for the leadership of the Labour Party are taking place everywhere. Extracts from two reports.

On 3 July the union Unite hosted a hustings in Leeds. At the entrance I had to run the gauntlet of well-dressed young researchers handing out glossy leaflets for all the candidates apart from Diane Abbott.

The former cabinet ministers tailored their pitch to the slightly lefty crowd. Ed Miliband proposed a Living Wage, increasing the rights of agency workers (a theme of all the candidates at other events) and a “high pay commission”. Even Andy Burnham said he “for one was not relaxed about people getting filthy rich”.

Diane Abbott was inadequte, but her answers to most questions were not far away from what genuine socialists would want.

She said she would support John McDonnell's workers rights bill. That is positive.

Ed Miliband, Balls and Burnham were non-committal, and David Miliband said he actively opposed the bill because it legalised secondary picketing.

Abbott wanted to abolish tuition fees. She was against raising the pension age at all. She was for a massive council house building programme, re-nationalisation of the railways and for unilateral nuclear disarmament. Her economic policy would be to raise taxes on the rich and cut defence instead of public services and jobs. These positions all marked her as decisively different from the other four candidates.

On migrants, she was for the right to work and an amnesty rather then open borders.

Diane Abbott called for the restoration of the right of party branches to send resolutions to conference and for the members and conference to take control of policy making. Both Ed Miliband and Andy Burnham echoed those calls.


At the Lambeth Labour Party hustings, Abbott veered wildly from good to awful.

She has a good catchphrase — “one man's public sector cut is another woman's job loss” — and she was strong on immigration. But she also pitched herself as “the family candidate”. There were other moments of crass populism.

When someone from the Co-op asked a question she was the only one not to suck up. In fact she criticised the “co-operative council” idea which was good, as the audience were mostly Lambeth Labour establishment types.

Comrades should go to these things and try to ask about the union link and fighting cuts.


• Campaign leaflet critically supporting Diane Abbott: click here.

• Debate on supporting Dianne Abbott: click here.

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