Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Labour leadership: Reid in the lead

The McDonnell campaign has just issued a press release under the slightly breathless headine ‘McDonnell matches Brown in poll and calls for televised debate between Reid, Brown and McDonnell’. Sounds good, until you read the small print:

‘BBC Newsnight commissioned US pollster Frank Luntz to ask 30 voters who they preferred out of six potential candidates for the Labour leadership – Gordon Brown, John Reid, John McDonnell, Alan Johnson, Alan Milburn, and David Miliband. The participants were presented with biographies, speeches and interviews of the candidates.

‘The results were as follows: John Reid: 17; John McDonnell: 3; Gordon Brown: 3. No participant expressed support for Alan Milburn, David Miliband or Alan Johnson.’

With a sample of just 30 people, the poll is pretty meaningless. The bloke with most to shout about is Britain’s minister of the interior, pictured above left, surely? Can he really be that popular? And is Brown really playing that badly?

Here’s the attempted soundbite:

‘John said: "There isn’t a case in the recent political history of this country where an unknown politician has come from nowhere to become one of the frontrunners for the premiership, surpassing high-profile Cabinet ministers.’

Hmmmm. Such rhetoric is rather reminiscent of Respect and all that jive about ‘best electoral performance by a party to the left of Labour since the second world war’. It’s not strictly speaking incorrect, but it is rather missing the point.

‘This means that our campaign of sticking to the policies and avoiding personalities is succeeding. Despite a virtual newspaper blackout of our campaign, our strategy of going on the stomp around the country, talking to as many people as possible is really working. There is now real hope of a radical change of political direction for our party and our country.’

No there isn’t. Don’t get me wrong. I hate to rain on the Labour left’s parade, and I do want McDonnell to do well. But some of his younger aides really seem to believe we are on the verge of a socialist government. I fear they are in for a disappointment. Let’s keep it real.

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