I decided to canvass for questions from my readers and they came up with five points to raise with each of the candidates for the Leadership of the Labour Party. As the camapaign reaches it’s climax I have decided to publish the responses of each candidate in turn. First in the hotseat is Diane Abbott who has been the MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington since 1987, when she became the first black woman to be elected to the House of Commons. She is a member of the Socialist Campaign Group of Labour MPs. In May 2010, after Labour lost the 2010 general election, she entered the race to succeed Gordon Brown as Leader of the Labour Party.
1). Most of my readers are under 25. What would they take away about a
Labour Party led by you from your acceptance speech?
I haven’t written my acceptance speech as yet! I hope that the Labour Party under my leadership will show people that they don’t have to come from a certain background, or have worked as a special advisor, or been a Blairite or Brownite, to lead a political party. I have always been in politics because I believed in making a difference. I have never changed my politics to please people or my party and that’s why I can proudly say I was the only candidate to vote against the Iraq War.My leadership will show that what matters most are your principles, not your connections or where you came from.
2). How would you go about addressing the deficit whilst at the same time protecting services and reassuring the markets?
Firstly, I would reduce the deficit by scrapping the nuclear weapons system Trident. This would save billions of pounds, which could be used to protect public services and reassure the markets, without placing the burden on those who can least afford it.We need to rely less on public sector cuts and more on new sources of revenue. 80% of the current government’s deficit reduction is coming form public sector cuts, I would make that 50%. Public sector cuts not only take demand out of the economy at a time when it is badly needed, but also hurt the vulnerable in society the most. Instead I would come up with new forms of revenue: have a 50% tax for the small proportion that earn over £100,000, change capital gains tax, have a financial transactions tax, double the banking tax, and introduce a mansions tax. This is a practical alternative, and one that will do far more to protect vital public services.
3). What practical suggestions do you have to increase participation of members in the running of the Labour Party?
Ordinary members are always more enthusiastic and willing to participate with the running of the party when they believe they are being listened to. Unlike the other candidates I have worked at all levels of the party, and believe I would be well placed to re-kindle this vital link. I also intend to boost the BAME membership of the party during the campaign.
4). What sets you apart from the other Candidates making you the best person to lead the Labour Party?
I will offer Labour the strong, vibrant and distinctive voice. The party needs a leader who can lead it back to victory but also protect people’s livelihoods, and defend our values. I will begin a new era for the party; one that will work on the best of New Labour but distance itself from the last regime that stopped listening to ordinary people. Labour allowed its values to be corrupted and we became more obsessed with holding onto power than driving through change to help the vast majority. The other candidates, who were at the heart of the old regime, can only offer more of the same.
5). What superhero power would you choose to have for a day, and why?
Probably the ability to fly. I have been travelling up and down the country all summer and I do not drive so it would be a much easier way of getting around.