Former Labour cabinet minister Tony Benn, who died a national treasure last year at the age of 89, came up with a poem to the tune of ‘The Red Flag’ when his party adopted a rose as its logo in the mid-eighties.
Benn managed to stretch the little ditty out to a full verse and chorus, but it started like this:
‘The people’s rose in shades of pinks,
Gets up my nostrils and it stinks,
But ere our limbs grow stiff and cold,
Our old red flag we shall unfold…’
His frustration was with the direction of the Labour party under Neil Kinnock, a man considered too left-wing by the electorate but no doubt a moderniser within the wretched red camp during the era of Margaret Thatcher, the Militant Tendency and mine closures.
Alas, Benn wasn’t to know that we’d reached the end of history by then, to coin political scientist Francis Fukuyama’s phrase, but the late Londoner would be rolling around in his grave if he knew which way his lot were heading after their recent General Election loss.
There’s a distinct, if still unlikely, possibility that Labour’s new top team, after leadership and deputy leadership elections in September, will be an all-female affair, while the favourite to take over from Boris Johnson as Mayor of London is Tessa Jowell, who held office as Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport between 2001-2007.
Don’t get the wrong idea. Benn was no sexist; his problem with this new generation of leading ladies would be that each is on what’s known as the ‘Blairite’ wing of the Labour party.
Liz Kendall, the 11/4 joint-second favourite, alongside Yvette Cooper and behind 4/5 jolly Andy Burnham, to replace acting leader Harriet Harman as Labour’s big cheese, has indicated that she’ll sign up to much of the Conservatives’ economic agenda, such as lowering the benefits cap, if elected.
Stella Creasy, the 4/1 third-favourite for the deputy gig despite currently struggling to attract enough support to get on the ballot, recently stated that ‘wanting to make a profit doesn’t make you evil’, an innocent enough utterance in normal circumstances, yet loaded with meaning within the context of this fight.
Labour have never had a permanent female leader, which has become a point of embarrassment for a party constantly faced with the children of Thatcher, but flooding the upper ranks with women, without a Socialist among them, is risky.
Keep an eye on the markets. If Burnham starts to look a lock for the top job, there could be a clamour for Creasy or 2/1 deputy leadership second-favourite Caroline Flint, another politician who tends to be associated with Tony Blair’s tenure as Prime Minister, to get the gig.
After all, the last thing Labour needs is the reverse; that is, left-leaning working-class duo Burnham and Tom Watson, 4/5 market leader for deputy, locking the ladies out of everywhere but City Hall.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
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