So to the Institute of Education for the Deputy Leadership Hustings last night and here's my rundown, FWIW, of the performances of the runners and riders....Hazel Blears:
She generally performed the best and consistently got the biggest applause. As someone immune to the charms of Hazel Blears (I don't think that's a minority pursuit), I found this a little perplexing at times but she successfully promoted herself as the candidate with the strongest talent for campaigning. She demonstrated the 'right, I'm working class, me' routine enough times for a bourgeois dilettante like myself to find it grating. There's no way I'm voting for her but on that performance I can see why people would. Her answer on climate change was fatuous and pretty irritating though(see below).
For me Jonathan Freedland got it right though when he wrote (of Blears):
"Her manner is a tad too grating: she's that character you find in every office,
falsely chirpy, constantly demanding people cheer up and with a sign above
her computer declaring, "You don't have to be mad to work here, but it
Hazel Blears USP: Vote for me, I'm a feisty, Northern, working class lass. Did I mention I was working class?
Hilary Benn: Popular and charming as he is, Benn really struggled to say anything beyond banalities when responding to audience questions. He did well in his set-piece opening speech and also in his closing speech but otherwise was unconvincing.
Hilary Benn USP: Vote for me and elect me to a position in which I can do nothing about the global poverty I talk so eloquently about.
Peter Hain: Managed to tick the boxes but still seemed to struggle to pass the test. He spoke of a 'Red-Green agenda', pointed to his record of banning the 11-plus whilst Norn Iiseland Secretary and generally gave soft-Left responses to each question but still failed to fully convince. Hain reminded me of a candidate going for a job interview ('Remember, back up everything you say with an example from your career'), as he proceeded to preface his every response with 'As Northern Ireland Secretary'...this got a tad irritating.
Peter Hain USP: I'm the only candidate to build a Red-Green & Orange Coalition.
Harriet Harman: Harriet Harman asked if, with Gordon as leader, "we wanted two men in the team? Do we want another man?" Yes, Harriet we do if it means you don't get the job.
Beyond arguing that she was Radio 2 (in comparison with Brown as Radio 4), Harman's monomania about the importance of electing a woman (or to be precise, Harriet Harman) to be deputy leader meant that I can't remember anything else she said.
Harriet Harman USP: I'm a woman. From the South. And I'm a woman.
Alan Johnson: Didn't play to the audience which was actually to his credit. Seemed laid-back, perhaps too much so at times, which meant that Blears stole the show with her more aggressive approach.
Alan Johnson USP: I'm yer real-politiking trade union ex-postie.
Jon Cruddas: Having heard about Jon's desire to re-engage the core vote and the party , I was keen to hear what he had to say on this. I wanted to like him. Unfortunately I came away disappointed as he didn't really say much about what he would do to reach core voters. He also actually looked disinterested on the stage and failed to exude (deputy) leadership quality.
Jon Cruddas USP: Bring me your tired and huddled working class masses and I'll, erm...
One of the questions from the floor was 'what have you done personally and professionally to tackle climate change?'. The answers on this were, for the most part, either instantly forgettable or totally depressing.
Hain has a strong record on this (from his time as Northern Ireland Secretary...) but Harman's felt it worthy to mention in her response that she stops her husband from running the tap while he's cleaning his teeth. Cruddas rambled, saying he was initially reluctant but now he does stuff 'cos of his kids. Blears' response was absolutely awful. She offered a fatuous reply which was probably aimed at getting a laugh but was actually risible (yeah, I didn't like it). Blears said she'd heard that beacause of climate change, Manchester was going to get warmer and have the climate of Portugal. She spoke in a manner which suggested she was all for this (what a card!). She then said she'd done her bit for the environment by downsizing to a smaller engine sized motorbike....
I hate the 'hair-shirt' strain of environmentalism but I would have expected a better answer from Blears especially. The other candidates answers (Hain's apart) were also disappointing. Surprising too given that the environment is so high on the political agenda now and that politicians need to pay at least effective lip-service to it if nothing else...