While the Labour leadership contest gets under way there is another, perhaps more interesting, battle underway
While Yvette Cooper, Andy Burnham et al slug it out in the Labour leadership contest, a parallel contest is taking place for the deputy leadership. In this instance, the undercard is shaping up to be more interesting than the main event with some interesting personalities and campaigning styles coming to the fore.
The deputy leader role in the Labour Party is in effect a party official, with no official political status. But it is role that is central to the Labour Party’s ethos, and was best defined in recent times by none other than John Prescott. The role is part party sounding board, part grassroots link with the leadership and importantly a tub-thumper at big campaign moments. It reflects the soul of the party.
So which of the current candidates measure up on our Prescott-ometer…
Part of the 2010 intake, and backed by none other than John Prescott himself, while not the current favourite for the role (see Tom Watson below), everyone expects Stella to mount a vigorous campaign.
Known for: Strong stance and campaign against payday loans. A love of shoe-gazing indie music.
Likelihood of punching out a voter: Depends if they criticise the Wedding Present.
Prescott-ometer score: You can see her delivering the last speech at conference and rallying her team on to victory. Inexperienced but maybe that’s a good thing in Labour party circles 4/5
A bit more experienced than Stella, Ben was elected in 1997 and held numerous roles in government from the FCO to Defra.
Known for: Being a Blairite minister often tasked with some challenging briefs and for picking a fight with George Galloway over the Iraq War. He was the second MP who was openly gay when first elected (being beaten by 21 minutes by Stephen Twigg).
Likelihood of punching out a voter: Far too smooth for that sort of thing.
Prescott-ometer score: Perhaps too associated with the Blair years to play the rejuvenating role the party is hoping for. He has set out his stall with a strong focus on Labour’s need to adopt a ‘big tent’ approach to politics and embrace wealth creation 3/5
The bookies current favourite, Tom was first elected to Parliament in 2001. He was appointed Labour’s first ever deputy chair and the Labour Party’s Campaign Co-ordinator by Ed Miliband in 2011 only to have to step down from the role due to the Falkirk Selection row.
Known for: playing a key role in the News of the World phone hacking scandal through his role on the Culture, Media and Sport Committee in which he questioned Rupert and James Murdoch and Rebekah Brooks. His comments likening Rupert Murdoch to a mafia boss received widespread coverage. He is also widely associated with the plot to force Tony Blair to resign in 2006.
Likelihood of punching out a voter: He has a reputation as a political street-fighter. It’s unknown whether this extends to street fights.
Prescott-ometer score: He is a consummate campaigner and knows the Labour machine inside-out. He doesn’t quite make the grade as a unity candidate. 4/5
Like Ben Bradshaw, elected in 1997. She held various posts including the Minister for Housing and Planning. She resigned from the Government in 2009 due to disagreements with Gordon Brown’s leadership style.
Known for: Perhaps the biggest splash she made was in her resignation from the Brown Government over the ‘female window dressing’ row. She also had a series of media issues as a minister, particularly when photographers saw notes on her papers setting out alarming predictions for house prices.
Likelihood of punching out a voter: Has previously been accused of being combative in her style and has talked of her tough background. Best not risk it.
Prescott-ometer score: Clearly up for taking on the Tories, one can see her leading a fightback. But doesn’t carry a strong following with her. 2/5
The longest serving of the candidates, Angela Eagle was elected in 1992. She became a minister in the last year of the Gordon Brown government and was part of Ed Miliband’s shadow cabinet in several roles, in particular shadowing the chief secretary to the Treasury.
Known for: Despite a few roles in the Blair years (and allegedly being sacked by him in error) the Parliamentary incident in which she was involved that has gained the most media traction was when David Cameron encouraged her to ‘Calm down, dear’.
Likelihood of punching out a voter: She didn’t punch Cameron, so we assume minimal.
Prescott-ometer score: She would bring a huge level of experience to the role, and can claim to be the candidate who best understands what it is like to fight to return Labour to power. But she doesn’t seem to have the public persona required to deliver on the tub-thumping. 1/5