Croydon Labour’s convenient three-way split in leadership race

In case you had not noticed, the Labour party has effectively been leaderless since around May 10, although Harriet Harperson, from the nearby Dulwich constituency, has done a sterling job in ridiculing “Call Me Dave” at Prime Minister’s Questions for the past two months.

Harman is de facto leader because she was Gordon Brown’s deputy (wrong place, wrong time), and so she’s minding the shop until a leadership election is – eventually – held in the autumn.

This week, Croydon’s local constituency Labour party held its meetings to determine which of the five candidates to formally support.

Given the Con-Dem Government’s determination to reduce the number of national constituencies to 600, Croydon may not have its three MPs – North, Central and South – after the next General Election, so maybe our local Labour party was just making the most of its three picks by decisively shrewdly opting to nominate three different candidates for the leadership.

Apparently, if you went into Ladbrokes in South End and backed three runners in a five-horse race, this would be known as “hedging your bets”. Or, possibly, “backing against yourself”, ultimately leaving you worse off than if you had not staked any bets at all.

Malcolm Wicks: MP for Croydon North. Not ooop North

Croydon North, perhaps unsurprisingly since MP Malcolm Wicks had already nominated him, has plumped for Andy Burnham. Croydon North giving Burnham its blessing does run the risk of confirming the Everton supporter’s self-created stereotype as the somewhat chippy northerner candidate.

Meanwhile, Croydon Central and Croydon South have between them opted for the Miliband brothers.

Which sort of follows the national trend that suggests that the other candidates, Ed Balls and Diane Abbott, have no chance.

Balls, the former Education Secretary who has spent the past few weeks successfully exposing that idiot journalist Michael Gove over his ridiculously damaging schools plans, can’t get elected because he is seen as just too close to former Prime Minister Broon. Sad but true.

On reflection, we might all have been better off had Balls’ wife, Yvette Cooper, stood for the leadership instead.

Abbott, the token black, woman, London constituency candidate, won’t get elected because (a) she sent her son to a private school; and (b) she’s too left wing. The latter reason is apparently the bigger handicap in the modern Labour party.

Had the reasons against Abbott been that she is (a) about as politically inept as Jeffrey Archer; and (b) has spent too much time flirting on TV with Andrew Neil, then we think that the argument would have been more compelling.

However, Inside Croydon thinks it is all a bit of a shame because Abbott has been consistently opposed to Britain’s involvement in illegal, US-led wars, something that the four other candidates, as past members of the Bliar-Brown cabinets, have been in some way complicit.

Also in Abbott’s favour is that she’s up for saving untold billions by scrapping Trident as the wasteful piece of sabre-rattling folly that it is. Even the military top brass want the money spent on more conventional ways of killing people, rather than a big underwater boat that no one seriously believes will ever be used for the purpose it was designed.

To paraphrase Abbott, what it all means in the Labour leadership contest, therefore,  is that all we are left with “is a choice of nice boys in suits”.

Most worryingly, Labour’s nice boys in suits might seem a little too much like the nice boys in suits on the Government front benches (“Call Me Dave” and Cleggie are fast becoming the most unappealing double act since the Chuckle Brothers launched their career in comedy).

David Miliband is the bookies’ odds-on favourite to become Labour’s new leader because, as a former Foreign Secretary, he has experience of big-time office and is the best known of the candidates. He is also the only one of them who ever wanted to be a bus conductor (presumably not to emulate John Major). Instead, he opted for Oxford and a career in politics.

Ed Miliband, the younger of the London-born scions of Polish emigres, is a bit of a policy wonk, and therefore considered to be boring. He is also credited with writing most of Labour’s 2010 manifesto, which may not be altogether a good thing. An MP only since 2005, after going to Oxford, he went straight into a career in politics.

Burnham is from Liverpool, which is in the North. Like the Milibands, he is an Oxbridge-educated career politician, ie. he’s well-educated and part of the Establishment, but has never had a proper job. And he’s from Liverpool.

Obviously, Malcolm Wicks will know the Shadow Health Spokesman better than we, and so he may have discovered some redeeming characteristics. We’d like someone to tell us what they might be.

Whenever he is on radio or TV, Burnham manages to irritate Inside Croydon because of his constant, flat-cap and whippets references to his northern roots, and his complaints that the Labour party is run by a cabal of London elite.

This is annoying because:

  • it comes from a member of the very same cabal of elite, professional politicians who took over the running of this country during the last two decades; and
  • it is entirely inaccurate.

For Andy Burnham’s benefit, let’s run through recent Labour leaders and see just how many of them were part of a “London elite”:

Gordon Brown: Scottish. Not from London.

Tony Bliar: Educated at posh Scottish school. Represented constituency in the north-east. Not from London, though moved here to be closer to the “London elite”.

John Smith: Scottish. Not from London.

Neil Kinnock: definitively Welsh and ginger (not that that is a bad thing, you understand. Just not very London. Or Elite). Wears red a lot and goes to rugby. Not from London.

Michael Foot: long-time representative of Welsh coal-mining constituency. Supported Plymouth Argyle (cue “best left winger they ever had” jokes). Was spotted walking his dog on Hampstead Heath (which can be a bit elite).

James Callaghan: represented Cardiff, which last time we checked is in Wales. Not London.

Harold Wilson: from ooop north, and supported Huddersfield Town. Very northern. But Oxbridge educated, a bit paranoid and thought the London elite was out to get him.

Which brings us back to Andy Burnham. He also might like to note that the last Londoner to lead the Labour party was Hugh Gaitskell. And he died in 1963.

But if there is one single thing that really ought to count against Andy Burnham, it is that he has been given the ringing endorsement of Jamie Carragher. A footballer. From Liverpool.

  • Tomorrow evening, Croydon Labour’s HQ at Ruskin House is hosting a London mayoral hustings meeting due to be attended by Ken Livingstone and Oooooona King. Should be fun. Wonder whether Croydon Labour will be able to select which one to support this time?

About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email
This entry was posted in Croydon Central, Croydon North, Croydon South, Ken Livingstone, London-wide issues, Malcolm Wicks MP, Mayor of London, Oona King. Bookmark the permalink.

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