Comment: Why is Stella Creasy running for deputy leader? She should have the top job

Stella Creasy: Read for the top job, but running for the second
Stella Creasy: Read for the top job, but running for the second

By Thomas Byrne

Among all the chatter about who should next leader of the Labour party, there's been a notable absence of reality. In one corner you have 'aspiration' candidates like Chuka Umanna or Tristram Hunt, who said the party needed to understand people to want to shop at Waitrose (did no-one tell him it's Aldi which is middle class chic now?). Hunkered down with them are defeated gargoyles like Peter Mandelson and Tony Blair. In the other corner, you have the usual suspects like Diane Abbott and the unions, claiming all the party needs to do is regain its soul and present a true left wing alternative. They are all wrong, in their own way. Stella Creasy would make a much more authentic choice for Labour leader.

Creasy has already ruled herself out, although she's thrown her hat in the ring for the deputy leadership. That move was probably sensible in terms of ambition, but it was disastrous for Labour. She should run the risk of self-sacrifice in order to save her party. No-one else is qualified. Creasy is the only one who understands the party needs to completely overhaul if it's going to win again. The left fails to understand they lost the argument about the economy a long time ago and no defence of their record will rehabilitate. The right fails to understand that a return to unadulterated Blairism isn't the route to electoral salvation.

She knows it isn't progressive, smart or electable to build the state on the backs of the poor. Tax must have a purpose, but sadly most of the tax we raise to fund public services comes from the wallets of those it apparently helps. You can't measure the good of a society by what percentage of GDP Whitehall bestows on its citizens. Poor people hate tax just as much as rich people. The household budget metaphor for the economy is erroneous, but this isn't justification for spending recklessly.

Creasy gets it. She proposed a zero-based review of all government spending to see if every penny could be justified with regards to working people and their tax bill. It isn't about austerity, it's about doing the best you can with what resources you have. When Miliband stood up and forgot to mention the deficit in his conference speech it was a disaster - not because the deficit is the most important economic issue. It isn't. It was terrible because it betrayed the conservative attitude Labour had since 2010 towards the state.

Miliband made a big deal of his extensive 'listening' exercises with the electorate. Not only did he listen, he was in touch with their concerns, with first the disastrous cost of living campaign and then Edstone. Just listening, rather than seeking to engage and persuade, is what results in the incoherent wobble which was the hallmark of the Labour campaign.


Umunna launching his leadership bid on the streets of Swindon earlier this week

Creasy, in a pamphlet, moved past just listening and considered seriously how public engagement could improve public services and move past a managerial New Labour in a serious way.  Not only was it a serious way to improve public services, it was a way for Labour to stop the cascade to the right which public policy has taken.

Blair may have won elections, but after 1997 he won them in a reactionary way. Great, you maximised the vote you ran into the ground, but what are you actually for if you aren't seeking to persuade people? Ukip and the SNP are creatures of New Labour's own making. Some dismiss the idea of Labour as a campaigning organisation, and to an extent they're right. But it's only as a campaigning organisation that any party starts to build a base. The Conservative party may have won, but they're never going to win anywhere outside their comfort zone with pronouncements from up high in the media.

And Creasy really can run a campaign and mobilise people. She knows the party infrastructure pretty well. She knows how to mobilise a campaign into the national media - witness the effectiveness of her stand against Twitter abuse or her fight against payday loan companies. She knows how to get things done, and is more than happy to recruit members of the public to do it. Her article on how to lobby your MP shows a better understanding than anyone of how to get something off the ground. Not only does it have lessons for campaigners who want to enlist the Labour party, it has lessons for its MPs too. Show the public you can get things done and they will come. Achieve it against the odds, and they will come back.

Creasy made headlines for her part in a campaign against Twitter abuse
 

Although the Tories won a majority, it's on a knife-edge. It's common wisdom the Tory right will be the party management problem for Cameron, but it's actually the wet/wise elements which could undermine his leadership. Most Tories railed against Creasy when she campaigned against payday loan companies, but she was able to attract support from across the benches from the sensible elements of the Conservatives, with MPs such as Justin Tomlinson. Miliband was able to get some things done - Murdoch, Syria - but he wasn't able to combine it with making any changes to his party that mattered. Creasy can achieve both: strengthening Labour in the long run while reducing (if you believe the hyperbole) the damage the Tories will do to Britain.

You may well ask why she couldn't do this from a deputy leadership position. In theory, there isn't any reason why she couldn't - but if Harriet Harman gets her way, then women won't be able to hold both the leader and deputy roles. All of the male candidates – Umunna, Burnham  and whoever the left puts forward - are completely vapid and ignorant to what the party has to do to change. Kendall has a slither of a clue, but her election could mean ruling out someone who has a much firmer grasp on what needs to be done.

Without being cruel, Creasy is more human (in a real, rather than Miliband sense) and connects with people far better than those who rely on wonkish language to communicate. Some people may mock #indiemp but there is a world where people are crying out for authenticity - maybe it's the journos who should get out a little bit more.

Thomas Byrne is a freelance writer interested in politics and mental health. He blogs regularly at byrnetoff.co.uk and tweets at @byrnetoff.

The opinions in politics.co.uk's Comment and Analysis section are those of the author and are no reflection of the views of the website or its owners.

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