Yesterday I nominated Rushanara Ali for deputy leader. As I explained in a New Statesman blog, as well as Rushanara’s qualities and the contribution she could make to the party and the country, I wanted to help broaden the debate. Today John Healey has withdrawn from the deputy leadership contest with just that in mind and I know that many members, whilst sad to see his candidature end, will applaud the sentiments behind his actions. As I said in an earlier blog, we need a broad debate.
In the leadership contest three candidates have enough nominations to make it onto the ballot – and also to win immediate access to the party’s membership list to begin campaigning. They each have important contributions to make to the debate but there are still important voices within the party unrepresented.
Today I am nominating Jeremy Corbyn for the leadership of the party. I have a huge amount of respect for Jeremy. Already, when I entered the House five years ago he had a long established reputation as a campaigner of passion, integrity, commitment and consistency. I served with him on the National Executive of the Anti-Apartheid movement in the nineties, indeed I think it is thanks to him that I first entered the hallowed corridors of Westminster on a day pass for an Anti Apartheid meeting. He is well known for his strong advocacy of socialist ideals, principles and policies. There are a number of policy areas on which Jeremy and I do not agree. For example I do not believe we should spend billions renationalising networks when we there is such a desperate need to invest in the NHS and I advocate multilateral rather than unilateral disarmament. But I respect his views. More importantly in this context, many members share his views or would at least like to hear them debated. I asked members and supporters in my constituency who I should nominate and the overwhelming feedback – including to be fair from many who do not live in Newcastle Central – was that Jeremy Corbyn should be on the ballot.*
That is not to say I believe he should be the next leader of the Labour Party. As I said in my blog, thanks to the reforms of Ed Miliband, in these leadership contests MPs act as gatekeepers – we do not decide the outcome, our votes are worth no more than any member or supporter – but we do decide who gets on the ballot. I believe it would be wrong if we were only to open the gate wide enough to let a two or three candidates through. That is why I am nominating Jeremy Corbyn.
*A small number did ask me to nominate Mary Creagh, but I cannot do both