Har­man: Kent elec­tions will be hard for Labour

TONY BLAIR: No need to name de­par­ture date, min­is­ter says

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - SOUNDS GOOD - by Paul Francis

A SE­NIOR Labour min­is­ter has con­ceded the party faces an up­hill bat­tle in Kent at the May coun­cil elec­tions.

Jus­tice Min­is­ter Harriet Har­man, who is bid­ding to be­come deputy party leader, was guest of hon­our at a fund-rais­ing din­ner in Ash­ford for party ac­tivists from across east Kent on Fri­day.

But the min­is­ter re­jected sug­ges­tions that Tony Blair’s re­fusal to name a date for his de­par­ture from Down­ing Street would ham­per the party’s elec­toral for­tunes in May’s bal­lot.

Ms Har­man said: “It is very dif­fi­cult for a gov­ern­ment in the mid­dle of its term of of­fice.

“But there is a lot of fight­ing spirit, a lot of hard work be­ing done and a lot of new peo­ple.

“The na­tional pic­ture makes it harder.”

Lead­er­ship

Ms Har­man de­nied that ideally, the party would be look­ing ahead to the May elec­tions with the is­sue of its lead­er­ship set­tled.

“I do not think there is nec­es­sar­ily a right or wrong way to do it,” she said.

“Tony Blair has been open about say­ing he won’t stand, which is un­prece­dented, al­though it has led to a set of other ques­tions.”

And Ms Har­man was cool about the ac­tions of for­mer cabi­net min­is­ters Charles Clarke and Alan Mil­burn, who last week launched a web­site, called The 2020 Vi­sion, call­ing for a wide-rang­ing de­bate over the party’s di­rec­tion.

“There does need to be a vig­or­ous de­bate and not just one for MPs,” she said.

“That de­bate is on­go­ing so if the web­site con­trib­utes to that, it will be very wel­come.”

Ms Har­man was also asked if it was im­por­tant that Labour had more women in se­nior jobs.

“I have al­ways ar­gued that de­ci­sions are bet­ter made if you have a man’s and a wo­man’s per­spec­tive,” she replied.

“It is a more bal­anced team if you have men and women work­ing to­gether.”

It was im­por­tant Labour recog­nised that women vot­ers no longer thought it ac­cept­able for all de­ci­sions to be taken by men, Ms Har­man added.

But she de­scribed Par­lia­ment as “still very much a boys’ club.”

Jus­tice Min­is­ter Harriet Har­man with Jes­sica D’Souza Watts, the or­gan­iser of the Labour Party’s fund-rais­ing din­ner in Ash­ford

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