Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Deputy leadership candidates interview

Socialist Campaign Group News has conducted an interview with each of the six contenders for the Labour Party deputy leader.

Jon Cruddas comes over as by far the best candidate, not only in terms of policy content but because he answers the questions clearly without any beating round the bush.

Should the government halt further privatisation in the NHS?
Jon Cruddas: Yes. I’ve called for a moratorium on private sector involvement in the NHS. I think we urgently need to take stock of where we are and what is and isn’t working. I also think that the pace and scale of reform has left the NHS and the people who work in it reeling.

In order to tackle the gender pay gap, do you believe the government should legislate for mandatory pay audits?

Jon Cruddas: Yes. I was disappointed that the Prosser Commission didn’t recommend it. There is an enduring 17 per cent gender pay gap.

Should Trident be replaced by a new generation of nuclear weapons?
Jon Cruddas: No. I voted against Trident. Trident and any upgrade are relics of another era. The events of July 7 2005 demonstrate that we face very different security threats.

Is the government pursuing the correct policy in Iraq?
Jon Cruddas: It is withdrawing troops but I think we need to review whether that is being done speedily enough. My view is that they should be drawing in multilateral forces and using diplomacy to try and find a settlement to the whole Middle East problem.

Should the government reject the hostile campaign of the US administration towards the Hugo Chávez government in Venezuela, which has overseen enormous social progress that has been repeatedly endorsed by the Venezuelan electorate?
Jon Cruddas: Chavez heads a democratically elected government which is doing amazing things for the poor. Any interference by the US or any other state should be rejected.

In contrast none of the other candidates gave a clear answer about privatisation of the NHS. Blears and Benn rather mendaciously redefined the issue as if the NHS cannot be privatised if “treatment free at the point of use” is still supported. Peter Hain defended his us of the private sector in Northern Ireland. Alan Johnson said: “Private innovation and competition can be beneficial”

All of the candidates except Jon Cruddas support nuclear weapons. Benn argued: “In the differently dangerous world we now live in, I don't think we should give up our deterrent.”, and he cheekily said that Trident replacement was necessary because it was a manifesto commitment.

On the question of Chavez, Hilary Benn thinks the real issue is falling into the trap of anti-Americanism; and Hazel Blears lectured the Socialist Campaign Group over the need to stay on the “centre ground” of British politics. Alan Johnson clearly believes that Britain’s relationship with the USA is too important to jeopardise: “Britain's relationship with the US will be led by Gordon Brown, but I will support him in any way I can. Whilst Gordon is wanting to maintain a strong relationship with the US, I firmly believe that he will not shy away from any issue, such as this, in private.”

All the candidates expressed support for extending council housing, but Alan Johnson worryingly said: “Borrowing against an authority's rental income could be a source of funding. ” I have a suspicion that the Brownite right are contemplating allowing local authorities to set up ALMOs themselves that can borrow money at commercial rates – so they will be publicly owned commercial companies.

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