Is it fair to compare today’s ministers with Labour’s Class of ’76?

Is it fair to compare today’s ministers with Labour’s Class of ’76?

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    Were these really “golden days”?

Comparisons are starting to be made with the last time Labour had to elect a leader while in government in March 1976 following the resignation of Harold Wilson. That contest produced an extraordinary array of contenders all of who could be considered to be “big beasts”.

They were – Employment Secretary Michael Foot; Tony Crosland the Environment Secretary;Tony Benn, the Energy Secretary; Home Secretary Roy Jenkins; the Chancellor Denis Healey and the Foreig Secretary Jim Callaghan.

In the first ballot of MPs Foot came top with 90 votes, Callaghan was on 84, Jenkins on 56, Benn got 37, Healey got 30 and Crosland came bottom with 17 votes. As a result of the first ballot, Jenkins, Benn and Crosland withdrew from the contest.

In the second ballot Callaghan beat Foot by 141 to 133 votes with Denis Healey a poor third on 38. The final ballot was won by Callaghan by 176 to 137 votes.

The ’76 contenders might have been major figures but the government they ran was hardly a high point in Labour’s history.

    The big difference between now and then, of course, is the lack of surprise. In 1976 Wilson’s departure was a bomb shell. This time the party has had time to prepare and the electoral system is different

Everybody has known that a challenger would have to fight it out with Gordon and he has always been the heir apparent. With one or two exceptions Blair has not allowed other talent to develop.

With the exit of Alan Johnson from the forthcoming race it is hard to see anybody serious, apart from John Reid, now being in a position to make a contest of it.

I do hope that Reid does come in and I’m starting to think that he might do quite well. A serious fight would also overshadow the Tories for a couple of months which would take the limelight off Cameron.

Latest labour leadership betting is here.

Mike Smithson

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