Sunday 11 February 2007

Media Coverage Like London Buses.

Typical isn't it. Yesterday there I am complaining about no mention of our campaign in the national press and then today two references come along in the same paper, the "Independent on Sunday."

In one article on the leadership election the Indie's veteran political commentator, Alan Watkins, refers to me as "the admirable John McDonnell." That came as a bit of a surprise as although I have always thought that much of his writing is particularly astute and certainly demonstrates an independence of thought, Alan usually has a pop at me and my politics. Anyway I can only be grateful for such a mention and description.

Further down the same page of the Independent a diary columnist, Joy Lo Dico, (someone I don't know and have never met) refers to Alan Watkins view that I may find it difficult obtaining the necesary MPs nominations but that Michael Meacher is faring worse. She goes on to write that it is "said by rivals that we are in talks about the idea that Meacher runs ahead with McDonnell as his deputy."

It goes on to say "Such an idea would delight Chancellor Gordon Brown, who needs a sacrifical lamb to stop the contest from becoming positively North Korean and Brown would rather crush Meacher than McDonnell."

I don't know who has planted this story. but you know how it is with sections of our beloved media. No matter how inaccurate or baseless a story, if it appears in print once it can get legs of its own. So before this gossip gets any legs and anyone gets any ideas I thought it best to put it down firmly and immediately.

Step by step let's get it right. The one thing about our campaign which completely reflects our politics is that we are open, honest and just straightforward. We have absolutely nothing to hide and actually nothing to lose in being completely open.

I am running for leader and nothing else. In our campaign we believe that we are nearing the halfway mark in terms of MPs committed to nominate with about another 15 or so MPs who we believe will eventually nominate because they want an election not a coronation. That leaves us needing another 5 to 10 nominations to find. We think there are another up to 20 possible nominations up for grabs. I don't think these MPs will make up their minds until pretty late on in the process and will base alot of what they decide on the opinions expressed by their constituency parties and their unions. That is why the focus of our campaign is based upon building momentum in the CLPs and unions. I've set out that strategy in virtually every speech I've made so it is no secret.

I am not badgering MPs to nominate me or putting anyone under pressure. That just isn't my style anyway. I understand the factors they have to weigh up and respect that. I want them to come to the right decision in the interests of our party.

I am not running for deputy leader as I want a decisive change in the the policies of the party. This change could only be brought about with a change of leader. Running for deputy would just be for position and to be frank has just become a career move for many others.

I am not entering into any pacts or deals with anyone, including Michael Meacher, to stand for deputy. I have always looked upon Michael as a friend and indeed I have expressed time and time again my respect for the work he has put in on climate change. Before last year's Labour Party conference I explained our campaign to him and told him he would always be welcome on board as part of the campaign team and he thanked me for that. That offer is still open.

However I would not stand as his deputy. No matter what my strong feelings of friendship I have for Michael I have to be completely honest on this matter. In the critical vote in Parliament on whether this country should go to war in Iraq, Michael voted for the war and remained in Ministerial office when Robin Cook and others resigned.

I know that Michael has later expressed regret for this decision and believes he was deceived by the Prime Minister over Iraq. However when you cast a vote for a position as important as the leader of the Labour Party you have to make a judgement on someone's ability to make decisions on principle at times like the war.

I wish Michael all the best but this is how I feel.

We will continue our enthusiastic grass roots campaign which has gained so much support from rank and file members in constituency parties and unions. Michael is very welcome to come on board and I would welcome his invaluable expertise on environmental matters.

Let's move on now and work together to mobilise the members of our movement and in this way get those nominations to secure a democratic election for the leader of our party.