The [Meacher] Ego Still Hasn't Landed...
The joke that is Michael Meacher's leadership campaign continues, as he appears to be doing his best to ensure Gordon faces no challenge from the left. Despite the fact there is no apparent support for his campaign, despite the fact he has almost zero credibility on the left of the party because of his voting record, and no credibility on the right of the party because of his cultivated image as a loony lefty, he his still insisting that he is the only candidate who can save the party.
Your story about the Labour leadership nominations (Brown shows his hand to stifle challenge from left, 21 April) quotes figures which are quite frankly ludicrous. The truth is that I have 24 signed statements from MPs nominating me, with further support from another dozen colleagues who have indicated that they will sign up once the contest is about to start.
John McDonnell may have up to 15 promises from the PLP Campaign Group, which his supporters have told me are not signed pledges but purely verbal. He has virtually not a single promise outside the Campaign Group. The figures make it quite clear that it is impossible for him to get anywhere near the 45 nominations required. That is all the more the case when his supporters have admitted that nearly all of them would transfer to me if he withdrew, while only a handful of my supporters would transfer to him if I withdrew.
But by playing down my support so absurdly and by exaggerating his support beyond anything that is realistic, Gordon Brown's supporters are certainly making one thing crystal clear: they want to avoid a contest against me at all costs, and for good reason. His record on the environment, inequality, privatisation and PFI, means testing and Trident are all issues on which they fear a challenge from me. If there is to be a contest, they want John McDonnell to be their opponent.
That is indeed the reason I'm standing - as the one centre-left candidate who can secure enough of the nominations to ensure that a debate does take place about the future direction of the government and that party members do have a choice of their leader, not have one imposed on them.
Michael Meacher MP
Lab, Oldham West and Royton
The fustration in John McDonnell's response is obvious. McDonnell, who does have credibility on the left of the party, with a voting record that represents his views rather than his loyalty to his political masters, and who represents the views of a significant proportion of those on the left of British politics without having to accomodate an ego the size of a collection of London properties, confesses he is at a loss at to how to respond.
I am saddened to see that Michael Meacher has broken his agreement that there would be a comradely discussion within the Left on how a Left candidate would proceed to the ballot paper in the leadership election based upon which candidate had the most nominations. People will recall that he gave a public pledge in the Independent that he would withdraw if if he had less nominations than our camapign. In this morning's Guardian he has launched a public attack on our campaign and come out with some outrageous verging on the delusional statements.
I no longer feel I can just remain silent.
Over the last few weeks extensive discussions have taken place with Michael Meacher. Mike Woods MP - who has acted as our Parliamentary team leader - first of all sought meetings with Alan Simpson MP whom we believed was Meacher's campaign manager. Alan denied he was the campaign manager so we then approached Kelvin Hopkins MP but he also declined to play this role. Meetings then took place with Michael Meacher himself because we couldn't find anyone else who was willing to state they were part of his campaign team or state publicly that they supported him.
Basically the situation is that when Tony Blair declares he is standing down there will only be a few days for MPs to send in their nominations. If an MP has nominated, he or she cannot switch their nomination to another candidate unless that candidate withdraws from the election. The nominating MP has no control over this.
So as there will be little time to secure a withdrawal of candidature and then switch of nominations we have been desperate to compare nominations with Michael Meacher so that a decision can be taken early on who should drop out and who should go forward.
The problem is that Micahel Meacher will not reveal even in the strictest confidence the list of nominations he claims to have secured. His only known supporters - Alan Simpson, Kelvin Hopkins and even Michael's own personal assistant - have confirmed that they have not seen any list.
We appreciated that some MPs will not want to have their names publicised. We have quite a number like that as well. So what Mike Woods suggested to Michael was that we both set out our first dozen or so nominations and meet with each to verify. Then after that we move on to the next dozen and then the next until the person with the least drops out. In fact we have been publishing some of our nominations on ourv website every week. I think the first dozen have gone up with supporting statements.
However Michael has still refused to give anyone sight or publish any names of MPs nominating him.
We are at a loss what to do.
Over the last month Michael Meacher has claimed 50 nominations secured. This then went down to 40. It is now down to 25. In Saturday's Guardian it suggested what most believe to be accurate that he has only two firm commitments. In the Guardian today he claims to have signed statements from 25 MPs confirming that they will nominate him. Nobody has seen these statements. Last year he did circulate a form asking if MPs were in favour in principle of a challenge from the Left and many signed this but this form did not refer to him as the candidate. He has circulated another form more recently including his own name but most MPs have reported that they have informed him that they are not willing to nominate him.
In his letter to the Guardian he alleges that the reports from Gordon Brown's camp in Saturday's Guardian that he has secured only three nominations were published because Brown is promoting my candidature because he is frightened of facing Michael Meacher.
Just make of this what you will but on the basis of this and other statements about the number of nominations secured many are beginning to worry about Michael's judgement.
I believe that we can demonstrate in this election that there is overwhelming support in our movement for the policies the Left is advocating. We can use this campaign to rebuild the Left both within the party and in the wider movement. We can only do that if people display a commitment to the wider movement than personal motives and above all if people behave with dignity that inspires respect.
If there is anyone who feels they can exert any influence over Michael Meacher at this stage please do all you can to assist. His behaviour may well mean that we run the risk that no Left candidate gets on the ballot paper.
posted by John at 2:49 AM
I met both prospective candidates last year, and had the chance to briefly chat with them both. One was a well known egotist with a string of London Properties who was a 2 term minister in the Blair government with a voting record to match. A voting record he was unprepared to discuss.
The other, was a quietly spoken determined character, prepared to discuss the isues and his record. He had time for the people he was talking to, indeed did as much listening as talking. This candidate has been working hard, travelling up and down the country building a support base, has credibility with members, unions and supporters.
One was up front and honest about his intentions. The other responded to questions about the leadership with a wink - literally, and said we should wait and see what he was going to do.
It should be pretty obvious to readers who was who. Which begs the question, what is Meacher up to here? Can it all be about his ego and profile? I sincerely hope so, because the only other [admittedly bizzare] conclusion I can come to is that if not, Meacher must either be being manipulated by, or working for Team Gordon's agenda!
The idea that Gordon Brown is worried by Meacher as a candidate is laughable. The only person I have ever heard express that view, is the man himself. But the idea that Team Gordon are worried by a straight fight between himself and John McDonnell? That is an idea that has been ignored so far, or simply laughed at. But it bears further examination before you dismiss it.
I am not suggesting that McDonnell could, or would beat Gordon in a straight fight, although stranger things have happened... But I am wondering what it is the Brown camp have been so scared of the last few months. For they are obviously scared of something... I've lost count of the amount of times declared Brown supporters have come out to try and stamp on any potential outbreak of democracy or debate within the Labour party. From Hain, to Beckett the call has been for no one to stand in Gordon's way. Is it really about the usual sychophants trying to get/keep their jobs in the new regime? Maybe, but could it also be that there is something about a contest [other than simply one taking place] that worries them?
I think we can all agree that the Brown camp isn't scared of the Meacher campaign. I can't see how a challenge from Clarke, Milburn or any of the 'Ultras' would disturb them. IMHO that could only serve to help the Brown campaign as they are all fenced in by having being part of what went before, and allow Brown to position himself slightly to the left of what would pass for the debate.
But consider for a moment the prospect of that straight Brown McDonnell fight. Yes, obviously Brown would in all probability win out, but can you imagine how painful the campaign would be?
Brown wouldn't be able to pretend to position himself on the left of the debate, for that space would be clearly occupied. He would be faced with having to mount a resoulute defence of the last 10 years, and be constantly reminded of how intrinsic he has been to the Blair administration. He would have to defend his voting record, in contrast with McDonnell. He would have to face a well spoken, articulate opponent from the left who, I would venture to suggest, would be making the arguments that many in the Labour Party would naturally agree with.
Don't forget, you may not have heard of John McDonnell, you may not know what he looks, or sounds like, but you surely will if there is a couple of months with him on the News at Ten every night, hearing him on the radio and reading what he has to say in the press. The exposure a straight fight would give McDonnell, and his platform would be crippling for Brown. He would be seen to be winning votes by using his clunking fist, not by virtue of his arguments. Worse, for Team Brown, a couple of months of McDonnell leading the aguments of the left could define the left as a coherent force within Labour again, and possibly irrevocably reveal the splits in the party in time for Brown's general election defeat?
There is no doubt that Team Brown is scared of something, but if it isn't Meacher or a Blairite Ultra candidate, then the only thing left to worry them is the McDonnell campaign. I repeat, not because Brown is scared of being beaten by McDonnell, but by the idea of fighting 7 week one on one campaign against him.
If Meacher isn't actually working for Brown [vainly] for another bite of the Ministerial cherry or being manipulated into thinking he has genuinely got more support than McDonnell, then he may well be heading for a place in history as the man who ensured that Brown got his coronation without a fight. Labour's very own Ralph Nader.
Please Mr Meacher, should you stumble accross this, and I know you pass through here occasionally, wake up, smell the coffee, withdraw and put you weight behind getting John McDonnell on the ballot, and force Gordon spend the campaign taking on the issues, and arguing against what many in your party instictively believe in.
You are carrying too much baggage, don't have enough credibility and are too easily dismissed. You won't stop Gordon, the only thing you will stop is a left wing candidate getting on the ballot.
The only way you will make it onto the ballot Mr Meacher, is if enough Brownites decide that they want you on it to dilute and confuse the left.